With help from four Columbia firefighters, a 3-year-old Bassfield boy is doing fine after spending an hour and a half trapped in a tiny well 15 feet down in the ground.
First responders lowered a rope into the 16-inch-wide hole on Jan. 4, and the young man was able to wrap it around his left wrist and right forearm so they could pull him out.
“This is something you see on T.V. or in the movies, not anywhere around here,” Columbia Fire Capt. Nathan Guy said. “When you think wells you think large stone walls above the ground, not something small.”
A 911 call was received at 9:57 a.m. last Saturday from Black Polk Road, just north of the Mississippi 35 North and Mississippi 42 intersection in Jefferson Davis County. It was heard by a part-time firefighter in Prentiss, who contacted the Bassfield fire chief to see if assistance was needed. Columbia had extra staff that day scheduled to work with the downtown celebration, so Guy and firefighters Zack Peak, Michael Allen and Zack Purvis headed to Bassfield to assist.
With help from Cody Keys of the Mississippi Search and Rescue Task Force, a plan was formulated and executed and the boy was pulled from the well around 11:30 a.m. He was cold but otherwise unharmed.
Peak said the boy, whose name was not released, had been in the yard playing when his parents came looking for him.
Guy said he and the firefighters were starting to plan a strategy on the way to the site. The original plan was to lower Peak into the well to retrieve the young man due to Peak’s slender physique. However, that plan was quickly scrapped when they arrived on scene.
“The well was no more than 16 inches big; no way an adult could fit,” Guy said.
Examining the well they could see the child was stuck about 15 feet down. He had fallen in feet first with his arms above his head. The hood of his jacket covered his head, putting the young man in complete darkness with his face about an inch from the wall. The boy was trapped between a limb in the well and the wall. Peak said the limb probably kept the victim from falling deeper down.
Guy said the only way anyone would have been able to find the boy was with a flashlight because he was so far down, plus he had a dark, camo-style jacket on. Most likely, he said, the only reason why his parents found him or realized he was in the well was because they probably heard him crying out.
Guy said there was an EMT on scene who was talking to the boy and doing a great job in keeping him as calm as one can expect a 3-year old to be.
“I told her she could not leave; she was doing great,” Guy said.
Peak said he was very calm for a 3-year old.
They made a handcuff knot in a rope that they lowered down the well.
“We were able to coach the little boy to put it over his wrists. He was able to work with his hands up above his wrists,” Peak said.
The boy put the rope around the wrist on his left hand and around his forearm on his right arm. It took four or five attempts but once the boy was secured, it only took a few moments to pull him out of the well.
“It was a 3-year-old working with zero visibility. You couldn’t have had a better child to work with,” Guy said.
Guy said once the boy was pulled the only real complaint he had was he was cold. Peak said the boy was a light-skinned African-American, but he had lost so much blood in his hands as they were trapped over his head that his hands were white. He was able to move all his fingers and toes and showed no signs of external injuries, Guy said.
Guy said Plan B was to dig the young man out, and trackhoes and other heavy equipment were on site if the rope plan failed.
Before the scene was cleared, workers from Jefferson Davis County made sure the well was closed and covered to prevent any future accidents.
“I think they (members of the Columbia Fire Department) did an excellent job in the timely response and resources available and helping a small town with equipment, ready to respond to different types of emergencies,” Columbia Mayor Justin McKenzie said.
“We are a small town surrounded by small towns, and it is important that we are able to help out when needed and to be helped when needed. I commend the captain and the firefighters on their efforts and successful rescue,” McKenzie said.
Columbia Fire Department Chief Jeff McKenzie also had nothing but praise for his men.
“I’m so proud of them. They did an outstanding job. The department does a lot of training to handle whatever comes at them, and it is obvious the training is effective and working,” the chief said. “When we receive calls all kind of scenarios runs through our heads before we arrive on scene because until we are there, we have no way of knowing.
“It is important to be able to help out other departments if need be, and I am proud these men responded to the call.”