Woman Disappears Into Abandoned Septic Tank

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In an extraordinary act of bravery and skill, a team of San Bernardino County firefighters successfully rescued a 39-year-old woman in Fontana, California, on Thursday, February 8,  2024, showcasing their preparedness for challenging situations.

The incident occurred at the Hacienda Mobile Home Park on 8200 Cherry Ave. 

The woman, a resident of the park, was engaged in routine activities when she experienced a sudden and terrifying plunge as the ground beneath her gave way, sending her 25 feet down into an abandoned septic tank, shortly after 9:45 a.m.

According to Eric Sherwin, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the woman, a mother of four whose children’s ages span from a toddler to a college student, was near her home doing laundry. 

Her middle school-aged daughter heard her cries for help, leading to a 911 call for rescue after the family confirmed that she had disappeared into a giant sinkhole. The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District, alongside the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District, arrived at the scene. 

Despite the woman not being visible from the surface, rescuers could talk to her, confirming she was conscious and able to speak.

The complexity of the rescue was evident from the outset. The rescue team erected a tripod system about three feet wide above the hole and employed a crank and rope mechanism anchored to a battalion chief’s SUV for the descent.  This approach was chosen over a ladder due to concerns about the victim’s mobility and the potential risk posed by her injuries. With safety measures in place, including a helmet for the victim, one of the rescuers was lowered on a pulley system down into the hole to extract her. 

The effort took about two and a half hours. She was transported to the hospital with minor injuries, marking a successful end to a potentially tragic event. While specific details of her condition were not disclosed, fire Sherwin indicated she had sustained injuries from the fall.

Lizeth Gonzalez, 20, a family friend, described the victim’s condition as shockingly pale but was thankful for her survival and the responders’ efficiency.

Fire Department Spokesperson Sherwin highlighted the frequent nature of such rescues, pointing out the hidden dangers of old septic tanks in the region, and mentioned that the incident had prompted a review by municipal building and safety officials to mitigate future risks.

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