California woman trapped for hours in septic tank after patio collapsed

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A hole in the patio at Hacienda Mobile Park in Fontana on Thursday, February 8, 2024. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

A Southern California woman was trapped in an abandoned septic tank for two hours after falling 25 feet when the tiles on her patio collapsed beneath her, rescue workers said.

She suffered minor injuries.

A 911 emergency call brought emergency responders to the mobile home park in Fontana around 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, February 8th. The woman's family said they heard her screaming from outside the home and discovered a 3-foot-wide hole in the patio.

Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said crews rejected the idea of ​​lowering a ladder because the woman was injured by the fall and by bricks falling on her.

Instead, they constructed a tripod with a pulley for a rope and used a winch to lower a firefighter in a harness. The woman was lifted to the surface around midday and taken to a hospital by ambulance.

A neighbor said the woman was 39 and the mother of four children, ranging from a 1-year-old son to a daughter in college.

Sherwin said county search and rescue teams conduct this type of rescue several times a year, particularly in the High Desert. He said septic tanks are typically located in covered concrete vaults. He couldn't say whether this accident was related to the week's record-breaking rainstorm.

In addition to the county fire department, a crew from Rancho Cucamonga participated in the rescue.

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