Boy prayed to 'get out of the well' 6-year-old fell 45 feet into water in Parkton

April 10, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

In a tiny whisper, 6-year-old Roderick D. Aguillard IV -- who was rescued from the deep water of a Baltimore County well Tuesday night -- spoke yesterday of his thoughts while trapped in the dark, cold hole for almost an hour.

He was praying, he said quietly, "That I could get out of the well."

Dressed in a hospital gown dotted with fat, tan cats, the dark-haired child, who lives in Parkton, sat in a wheelchair at Johns Hopkins Children's Center for an afternoon news conference that drew national attention.

By his side were his father Roderick D. Aguillard III; one of his rescuers, Lt. Mark Gardner of the Baltimore County Fire Department; and Dr. Chuck Paidas, director of the pediatric trauma center at children's center.

"This is, in some ways, a miracle," Paidas told the crowd jammed into a colorful hospital playroom.

To Roderick, it probably was.

The boy nodded when asked if an angel had been with him during the ordeal.

"Every night we pray with him," his father said. "He can't go to bed without us assigning him an angel."

To many, the accident was reminiscent of an incident 10 years ago when 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell into an 8-inch abandoned well shaft in Midland, Texas. She was stranded for 58 hours.

Roderick, despite a broken leg and a small head laceration, was luckier. Gardner, who is trained for such missions, was able to maneuver into the well's 3-foot-wide opening to reach the boy without too much delay.

"Any time an incident involves kids, it affects your heart," said Gardner, the father of two daughters, who was lowered 45 feet to reach the child holding onto a pipe. "He definitely was a very fortunate little boy."

During the rescue, fresh air was piped to the child and lights were directed into the pitch-black well.

"I heard him cry out; that was reassuring," Gardner said, adding that he quickened his movements when he later heard a gurgle. "I was concerned he was slipping under."

Yesterday, firefighters still didn't know the depth of the water that swirled around the child's neck.

"I couldn't touch bottom," Gardner said.

Roderick, who was released from the hospital about 6 p.m., had been playing hide-and-seek with his brothers Evander, 4, and Preston, 3, about 6: 30 p.m. Tuesday when the boys decided to use their father's hammer to pry the nails from boards blocking the well in a pump house. When Roderick stepped on the lumber, he tumbled through, his father said.

The younger boys tried to rescue Roderick before calling their mother, Sandi Aguillard, who was on a patio nearby, the father said.

The family, which moved to Maryland two months ago from Lafayette, La., is renting the white farmhouse on Middletown Road. The Aguillards didn't know there was a well on the property, the father said.

"We don't have wells in Louisiana," he said.

The well was sealed after Tuesday's incident.

Roderick's first words when Gardner reached him in the well were, "I want my mommy," the firefighter said.

After being lifted on a board to the surface during the 20-minute rescue, Roderick hugged his mother, who is four months pregnant. He was transported by helicopter to the children's center.

"It was both inspiring and sobering," said the boy's father -- a staff member of the Rock Church in Towson who works in social ministries -- with tears in his eyes. "God did his job. The Fire Department did their job excellently."

By yesterday afternoon, though, all Roderick wanted to do was go home and watch television and play Batman video games with his brothers. He spoke in a voice raspy from yelling for help.

Roderick didn't suffer from hypothermia in the chilly water, but he fractured his leg near the ankle and needed eight stitches to close a scalp wound. His leg is splinted until the swelling goes down.

In eight to 10 days, he will receive a cast, which he will wear for six to eight weeks, Paidas said.

His physical injuries will heal, the doctor said.

But concern remains about psychological problems that often follow stressful situations.

Roderick could experience symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, Paidas said, such as lack of appetite and nightmares.

"But he has a complete family unit," the doctor said. "That family environment will help him."

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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