3-Year-Old Dies After Falling Into Grease Tank at New York Restaurant in 'Horrifying Episode'
A 3-year-old boy is dead after falling into a grease collection tank behind a fast-food restaurant in Upstate New York on Monday, police say.
The boy was initially reported missing to the Rochester Police Department around 11 a.m. before being found inside the underground grease trap at the Tim Hortons restaurant on University Avenue, ABC affiliate WHAM reported.
In the background of a police call obtained by WHAM, a woman can be heard yelling, “Please help him!”
The boy’s identity has not been made public.
“We’re asked all the time, ‘What’s the worst thing that you encounter as a police officer?’ And this is No. 1,” Rochester police investigator Frank Camp said, according to the station. “It’s tough on our officers, but our hearts are really going out to the family for this. This is just a horrible, horrible, unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy.”
Witnesses pulled the toddler out of the grease trap and administered CPR, the Associated Press reported. He was pronounced dead at Strong Memorial Hospital, according to the AP.
“The child apparently found his way outside, made his way on top of the grease trap,” Camp told reporters in the wake of the incident. “There’s no wall or anything that he had to climb over … and the lid gave way and he went into the grease trap … we have a horrifying episode that happened here today.”
Camp said that the cover was made of plastic, the AP reported. To prevent similar tragedies, the city will pour concrete around the grease trap and place a metal lid on the tank, he told CNN.
Tim Hortons told PEOPLE in a statement that the incident is under investigation.
“What occurred today was a tragedy and on behalf of the Tim Hortons family, we offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the young boy who passed away,” the statement reads. “Tim Hortons is fully cooperating with authorities.”
A teddy bear has been placed at the entrance of the grease tank in tribute to the boy, WHAM reported.
The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
This isn’t the first time restaurant grease tanks — which are used to keep grease and oil out of sewer systems — have led to death.
A 3-year-old girl in Auburn, Alabama, died after falling into a 6-foot-deep grease trap in October 2017, the AP reported. Her death prompted state lawmakers to pass legislation that would require more secure covers.
In March 2018, a 5-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was rescued after falling into a grease trap, according to the AP.