On one sunny Saturday in June, a mother and her daughter played tag in the front yard of their home in Hackettstown, New Jersey. With her mother Marlen close behind, Alyson Machigua giggled as she ran into the back yard of an elderly neighbor.
When she was about halfway across the neighbor’s yard the toddler suddenly disappeared. It was as though she had been swallowed by the earth. The girl had fallen into a hole that was later found to have been created when the cement covering on an old septic tank was pushed down by tree roots. It was just wide enough to envelope a toddler and not much more.
Marlen screamed. Her cries stirred 26-year-old Luz Jimenez the neighbor’s caretaker who was in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Alyson fell in the hole.” screamed Marlen’s sister Danari. Luz hurried outside. Peering down the hole, Luz could see nothing but darkness, but they could hear Alyson’s whales coming from deep underground.
Wasting no time, Luz ran into the house and retrieved a ladder and an extension cord to use for rope. The 3 women dug around the hole to widen it, just wide enough for Luz to squeeze inside.
Despite the protest of a police officer who urged her to wait for help she lowered herself down the 15 foot hole The sides were lined with rocks, and there was a metal tube that jutted out from the wall. As she perched on it, she could see water covering the floor of a 4 foot wide cavern, where Alyson stood submerged up to her neck. She was able to work her way down and grab the tot.
With the girl safe in her arms, she did her best to comfort Alyson. This time they waited for help. The fire department arrived and lowered a ladder so the two could climb up. Emergency workers rushed the girl to a waiting ambulance, tearing off her clothes on the way so that they could better survey the damage. Amazingly, other than being frightened and covered in dirt, the girl had no injuries.
A few weeks later the family had the hole filled with dirt and rock, and Alyson, though reluctant at first, was able to walk across the newly solid ground.
1. Meera Jagannathan, “The Girl Who Fell Down a Hole,” Readers Digest, November 2014, p. 10-13