UPDATED (3:28 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3)
Two girls were rescued Sunday from a newly dug home foundation they were playing in after mud from the walls loosened and buried them, Tinley Park Police report.
Nicole Salwierak, 11, and Sarah Miranda, 12, were not seriously injured and were taken to area hospitals to be evaluated, said Nicole's father, Robert.
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"It was a good ending to what could've been a tragedy," said Tinley Park Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Klotz.
The girls had been playing with other kids from the neighborhood in the excavation hole that was dug for a new home being built at 18307 White Oak Lane, Robert Salwierak said. The Salwieraks—Robert, his wife, Sandra, and their four children—live across the street from the lot. Sarah and her family also live in the subdivision, and the girls attend Hilda Walker Intermediate School together.
"The first thing was my heart fell into my stomach," Salwierak said about his reaction when his youngest daughter called him on his cell phone to tell him about the accident. He was nearby at his parents' house when Nicole became trapped.
"I was speechless, thinking about her laying there, buried alive, praying they were going to be OK," he added.
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Emergency crews from Tinley, as well as trained rescuers from Orland Park, Oak Forest, Flossmoor, South Holland and other nearby communities, responded at around 11:58 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, and began digging the girls out by hand, the police press release stated. It took crews about a half hour to free the two, Salwierak said. The emergency works said the way Nicole and Sarah fell was particularly fortunate, especially for Sarah, Salwierak said.
As the torrent of mud and dirt completely buried Sarah and covered Nicole up to her neck, the way in which Nicole fell on top of Sarah created an air pocket that contained enough oxygen for the 12-year-old to be able to breathe for the 45 minutes the dirt was on top of her, Salwierak said. In fact, Sarah was able to talk during the rescue, and people could hear her asking for her mother, Salwierak said.
If that air pocket hadn't been created, however, emergency workers told Salwierak that Sarah most likley would have suffocated by the time she was freed, emergency workers told Salwiearak.
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A home construction crew dug the excavation hole Saturday, he said, adding that he had a bad feeling about it then.
"There were about 25 kids playing around the hole [yesterday]," Salwierak said. "I told them not to play there."
Residential construction sites are not required to have barriers around them, said Village Building Commissioner Don McNeely, who visited the site Sunday when he was alerted of the accident.
"In my 21 years with the village, I've never seen a residential site fenced," he said, adding that in that same time, he can't remember an accident like the one Sunday.
The village has a call in to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to see if that agency needs to be involved evaluating the construction site or investigating the accident, McNeely said.
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