Boy's harrowing culvert ride ends with scrapes

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2012 - 11:50 AM

An 8-year-old boy's harrowing half-mile ride through a water-choked storm culvert ended happily Wednesday afternoon in Proctor, Minn., when he emerged with little more than scrapes and bruises.

An 8-year-old boy's harrowing half-mile ride through a water-choked storm culvert ended happily Wednesday afternoon in Proctor, Minn., when he emerged with little more than scrapes and bruises.

The boy fell into the pipe as floodwaters surged through the town of 3,000 southwest of Duluth, filling basements, flooding cars and marooning the town's Main Street in 4 feet of standing water.

Minutes passed as rescuers frantically searched the area where he fell in, an intersection in a residential part of town, said Rick LaLonde, Proctor's street department foreman.

He first learned of the boy's disappearance minutes after it happened when the town's fire chief called, telling LaLonde to bring the town's backhoe. LaLonde used the backhoe to move heavy boulders near the culvert, fearing the boy was trapped beneath.

He worked the machine's steel claw gingerly, with the boy's mother and sister standing nearby.

"They were watching all the rescue operations going on. You sure hoped it would turn out good," he said.

Police officers, firefighters, city street crews and even two postal carriers joined the search. Some rescuers started popping off manhole covers, heading south to follow the path of the storm sewer.

As time ticked by, LaLonde said he began to fear the worst.

"I have little boys myself," he said. "It was kind of an emotional deal."

Somehow, several blocks south of the spot where the boy fell in, he came back out.

LaLonde said someone heard a boy crying and found him washed out of the other end of the culvert, near a mobile home park called Zenith Terrace.

The boy's uncle told local television news that the boy was from Louisiana, visiting relatives in the area.

LaLonde said he believes that the storm sewer pipe is 24 inches in diameter. Officials estimated that the boy hit 20 miles per hour as he shot through the pipe, according to a local news report.

"It was a heck of an unexpected, water-park-type of ride," said LaLonde.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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