That sinking feeling: Rescue ends muddy adventure

March 17, 1994|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

Jeff Medlin did not go to school yesterday. For the moment, his name was mud.

According to Jeff, he had not been able to do his homework. According to his mother, Jeanne Medlin, she "just wanted him near" her.

Why goes back to about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, when Jeff, 9, was walking around a construction site three blocks from his new home in Furnace Hills, Westminster. He was with his friends Eric and Brittany Burr and Mike -- "I don't know his last name" -- and Mike's dog, Shelby.

"The dog got loose and ran across the construction site, and I went after her and stepped into some soft mud. I tried to get my right leg out, but my left leg went in and I sank immediately," Jeff said from his living room yesterday. "I was standing on my tippy-toes after sinking up to my waist.

"My first thought was I was going to get in trouble at home, but then I began thinking I might die of frostbite."

It was about then that Jeff realized his friends were standing about 30 feet away. He shouted to Mike, "Go get help" and his friend replied, "Where?"

"Go to Aunt Karen's house," Jeff shouted back. Mike ran. Meanwhile, Brittany raced to her home and told her mother, Darlene Burr, of Jeff's predicament. Eric stayed at Jeff's side.

Ms. Burr arrived first, followed by Jeff's sister, Carrie. They found a piece of tubing and extended it toward Jeff, but the boy had too much mud on his hands to get a grip on it.

Ms. Burr threw a pair of gloves to Jeff, and he put them on, but again the tubing slipped out of his grasp.

By then, Jeff's Aunt Karen, with whom the Medlin family has lived for the past three weeks, and about 10 other neighbors from the subdivision off Route 31 had arrived and were attempting to mount a rescue. The mud prevented Jeff from moving his lower body.

About 7 p.m., Westminster Police Officer Nancy Parker, on routine patrol, spotted the crowd on the construction site and stopped to investigate.

When she saw Jeff half-buried in the mud, she radioed for emergency equipment. By now, the boy had been in the hole for more than an hour.

Within minutes, rescue workers from Westminster and Union Bridge arrived. They placed panels on top of the mud and ladders on each side of the trapped boy to support themselves. More neighbors, alerted by the arrival of the engines and the ambulance, gathered around.

Radio dispatchers at the county Emergency Operations Center summoned a Baltimore County rescue unit that specializes in cave-in rescues.

The firefighters began digging around the trapped boy using hand tools until they were able to lift him from the mud hole.

Jeff, who was wearing only a sweat shirt, jeans and boots, said, "It was no fun being on your tippy-toes for about two hours."

By the time the Westminster Elementary School student was freed and placed in a waiting ambulance, his parents, who had been away from home and were notified by phone, had arrived.

At Carroll County General Hospital, the emergency room staff had been notified of the boy's situation and was waiting for him.

As he was wheeled into the emergency room on a gurney, ambulance medic Anne Rehfeld called to the hospital staff, "Here's the mud puppy," Jeff recalled with a smile yesterday.

He was released about 9 p.m.

When he arrived home about 15 minutes later, he immediately headed for the shower. Later, he was finally able to eat his supper.

Jeff, still wearing his plastic hospital bracelet yesterday, said he thanked God that he would be able to go to school today. He also expressed thanks to all those who worked to get him out of the mud hole.

The boy said he awoke about 6:30 a.m. yesterday and told his mother he had not done his homework Tuesday night. She said, "Stay home," he said with a grin.

Mrs. Medlin, sitting next to Jeff during the interview, reached over to touch her son and said, "I just wanted to have him close to me today."

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