Toddler plunged 15 feet down manhole left uncovered by Openreach
- Credit: Polly Hancock
A toddler escaped without injury after suddenly plunging 15 feet down a manhole left uncovered by BT's Openreach team, as he ran down the road.
According to witnesses, workmen had removed the cover to the shaft at the the corner of Hurst Avenue and Coolhurst Road, and were chatting about 50 yards away when two-year-old Dara Sharifi ran a few yards ahead of his mum Behnaz and fell into it.
Witness Marcial Doporto, of Stanhope Road, described how he "heard a woman scream blue murder", and saw two men run from different directions and dive straight down the manhole.
Using the metal steps down the shaft, one of them climbed to the bottom and scooped up Dara, handed him to the other man halfway, who then passed him to Mr Doporto at the surface.
"The child is alright and that's just by pure luck," said Mr Doporto.
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"It was shocking. It took me an hour to get over the adrenaline. You can't just leave it unattended - the BT Openreach people were 50 yards away and chatting. It's outrageous."
The Health and Safety Executive is looking into the incident on November 23.
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Because of the depth of the fall, Dara was given a CT brain scan and kept in hospital overnight for monitoring.
Dad Reza, of Stanhope Road, said: "His forehead was bruised and swelled a bit and they did tests to make sure he wasn't bleeding inside his skull.
"I think the fall into water was lucky because he was up to his chest in water and it absorbed a lot of the impact, but he could have been seriously injured."
He added: "Obviously I’ve been worried, and I don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 years time, and whether he’s got a brain injury. He’s active and walking, but every now and again he says: 'I’ll make sure I don’t fall into a hole again'."
He said his wife is "still in shock" and has been unable to sleep properly since seeing him fall.
Workers from Openreach, a division of BT, had been in the area laying pipes.
A spokesperson for Openreach said: “We are aware that an incident took place involving one of our manholes and a member of the public.
"We have started an investigation and until we have more information, we are not in a position to comment further."