A quick-thinking 12-year-old girl saves 4-year-old boy after he falls into a sewer hole

A four-year-old boy who fell into a sewer is alive and well, thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of one tween who saw the accident happen.

On June 12, Shayna Sykes and her sons, Rowan and Nolan, attended Connection Pointe, which was using the grounds at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Buffalo, Minnesota.

After service is a time for people to connect, and as expected, the kids flocked together. Rowan and Nolan joined the other children running around the lawn.

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“They were racing, so I shouted after them, ‘Stay where I can see you!”‘ Shayna told KARE 11 News. “A couple of the other moms laughed and they were like, ‘Oh, he’s with the herd, he’s fine.'”

But less than three minutes later, there was screaming: Rowan fell into an unsecured manhole leading into the sewer.

Luckily, 12-year-old Sadie Peterson was nearby and watching the mishap.

Before Rowan’s fall, she saw the kids curiously lifting up the manhole cover. She tried to warn them, but the boys continued to play with it.

The sewer hole that Rowan fell into
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“I yelled at them to get away from there and Rowan was trying to kick it down because he knew that it was the wrong thing to do,” Sadie said.

When Rowan fell in, Sadie quickly responded to the situation.

“I didn’t even think at all because I was over there — I just ran,” she recalled.

Sadie Peterson, the girl who saved Rowan's life
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Sadie reached for Rowan, who had sunk about 4 or 5 feet underground.

“Eventually I grabbed his hand and pulled him over and I got him to the point where his face wasn’t under water,” she said.

Sadie held onto Rowan while Nolan ran to get help.

“I thought I was going to slip and let him go (accidentally),” she said. “I was so far deep down that I thought I was going to fall in.”

Shayna ran over, fearing the worst had happened.

“I’m picturing the worst, that my baby is dead,” she told the station. “We got there and I saw his head above the water, gasping.”

Rowan showing the mark on his arm
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Another adult, Tim Dubois, got there seconds before Shayna did. He helped lift out Sadie and Rowan and put the latter in his mother’s arms.

“We just sat here on the grass covered in poop and waste and I just held him and rocked him and cried and cried,” she said.

Rowan suffered bruises on his face and had some marks on his arm, where Sadie held him tightly as he slipped out of her hand. The boy doesn’t want to talk about what happened at all. On the other hand, Nolan has bad anxiety after seeing his brother fall, so Shayna is asking people to send “peace and love” their way.

Shayna’s husband, Joe, picked them up and drove them home so they could wash the feces off their bodies before they headed to the hospital. Doctors advised them to watch out for symptoms of aspiration related to pneumonia or other bacterial infections.

Sadie Peterson and mom Stacy Peterson sitting on the grass
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Stacy Peterson, Sadie’s mom, praised her daughter’s heroic efforts.

“She’s in Girl Scouts”. We talk about helping people, we do our first aid, we do our safety badge. But we’ve never actually had to use it,” she said.

Later, Shayna learned Sadie was celebrating her golden 12th birthday on the day of the incident.

As a thank you, Shayna set up a GoFundMe to “raise money to add to a college fund, something special she’s always wanted, or anything she wants/needs” as a daily reminder that she is “absolutely amazing,” she wrote on the fundraiser page.

“You were exactly where you were supposed to be and you are exactly who God created you to be,” she told Sadie. “And you saved him. I don’t think he’d be here if you weren’t here today. But I’m so thankful.”

You can learn more about this story by watching this video from KARE 11.

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