Toddler swallowed by gap in floorboard

Elijah, with his mum and dad Te-Ani and Dave Withington, and sister and brothers Sophia, Jonathan and Matthew, appears non-plussed after his adventure.
Elijah, with his mum and dad Te-Ani and Dave Withington, and sister and brothers Sophia, Jonathan and Matthew, appears non-plussed after his adventure.

A Timaru toddler who fell 150cm through floorboards in the bathroom of his home is now back to normal after his extraordinary escapade yesterday.

Southern fire communications shift manager Brent Dunn said firefighters were called to the Newton St house about 7.45am after reports a young child was stuck under the house.

Te-Ani Withington was getting her three older children ready for school when her oldest, Sophia, 8, ran up to her saying her 18-month-old brother was stuck under the house.

"Once she calmed down I got out of her that Elijah had fallen through a gap in the floor and he was under the house. I didn't know how far the house went underneath but I could still see him. I was panicking on the inside but trying not to show it on the outside.

"I called 111 and said 'my child has fallen through the floor'."

Mrs Withington says as they waited for firefighters to arrive, Sophia was thinking of ways to rescue her brother and decided to get the ladder from their bunk beds.

Timaru senior station officer Trevor Karten says Sophia greeted them at the gate and showed them where Elijah was.

"The bathroom floor was a bit rotten and the little kid fell through it. I'm not sure if the hole was there or if it gave way."

Mr Karten says Elijah appeared to have fallen about 150cm.

"The other kids in the family had grabbed the ladder off the bunks, stuck that down but there wasn't a heck of a lot of room so no one could get down there because it was only a child-size hole. When we got there the child was screaming a bit and one of my brave firefighters lay down on the bathroom floor and was able to reach down and grab his upstretched arm.

"Elijah had his arms up above his head and he pulled him out. We gave him back to [Mrs Withington], who was surprisingly calm."

Mr Karten says firefighters checked Elijah for injuries before St John Ambulance arrived and put a sticking plaster on a small scratch on his hand.

"He was a remarkably unhurt because a metre and a half is quite a drop.

"There was the risk of banging his head or falling on his head but he must have gone straight down."

But the firefighters' efforts didn't end there: they also fixed the hole.

"I went to the house next door and grabbed a pallet and patched the hole up."

The brigade also put up two long-life fire alarms in the children's bedroom.

Mrs Withington says she's grateful for everything.

She says her two other sons, Jonathan, 7, and Matthew, 4, were excited by all the action and wanted to be firefighters when they grew up.

And renovating the home was now "top of the list".

- NZ Herald

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