A 14-month-old Connecticut boy is recovering after falling 12 feet down an air duct last week, PEOPLE confirms, in an incident his mother called “extremely scary.”
Kristie Mendes, of Waterford, told NBC Connecticut that she placed her son Elijah Irizarry in an enclosed area before going to the bathroom around 7:30 a.m. last Tuesday. She says she was gone for just a few moments when she heard the child screaming.
“I ran in the room and at first I didn’t see him so I started to panic,” she said. “Then the next thing I know I look down and I see him, he was in the vent. He was all the way down and I could only see his head and his shoulders and his hands were up and he was trying to, like, reach. But he was too far down. There was no way of getting him down there.”
Irizarry had somehow lifted the vent cover and fell from the second floor down to a crawl space beneath the home, WFSB reports. Mendes called 911 in a panic, telling the dispatcher, “My baby is stuck!” according to NBC.
Crews with the Goshen, Jordan, and Cohanzie Fire companies responded to the incident and disassembled the ventilation duct to free the boy, Waterford fire officials wrote in a Facebook post last week.
“He was screaming, ‘Mommy!’ and ‘Daddy!’ and he was just reaching and trying to climb up,” Mendes told WFSB.
A fire official told reporters that Irizarry’s hands were stuck above his head.
“He was sandwiched from his front and from his back side,” the official said, according to WFSB. “His head was kind of pinned in there.”
Rescue teams freed the boy within 20 minutes, officials wrote in the Facebook post. He suffered minor cuts to his stomach and legs.
Mendes told WFSB that her home is completely baby proof, and said she believes that Irizarry used a hanger to lift the cover off the vent. She added that she had always thought the vent was screwed shut.
She said Irizarry was in good spirits immediately after being rescued. Now, she said she hopes the situation can be a warning to others.”
“Out of all of this, to help people be aware that it can happen,” she told ABC 7. “And like I’m doing today, I’m getting all new gates and screwing them all down.