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Local authorities rescue child from retention pond

Emergency personnel rescued a four-year-old autistic child from a retention pond on last week 

Vandalia Police Chief Jeff Ray said the department was notified of a missing child at approximately 2:04 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13. Officers began to comb the area and checked the home, which is located near the intersection of the 100 block of Jefferson Street and the 600 block of North 2nd Street.

“It was not far from the river and the river bottoms, so we were checking the areas around there,” Ray said.

After reports from neighbors who saw a little boy in swim trunks in the area, officer Rob Thompson was walking on foot when he radioed in that he had found Lucas neck deep in the retention pond located near the Water Treatment plant.  Thompson estimated that the boy had walked midway through the pond, which was 40 to 50 feet away from the shore before he became submerged in the muddy sludge.

“You can see in the little boy’s tracks where he had been on the bank and  that he had gone out there and just got stuck,” Ray said.

Both Ray and Thompson had attempted to work their way through the pond’s mud but likened it to quicksand. Authorities then called for a ladder from the Vandalia Fire Department but couldn’t quite get to Lucas to pull him to safety. Another aluminum extension ladder was used to further their reach.

“My only thought was to get him out and get him to safety,” Thompson said.

Less than five minutes at 2:26 p.m. after rescue efforts began, Thompson and a firefighter were able to reach him, and Lucas was freed. He was checked out by local paramedics and sent home.

Given the high and humid temperatures that afternoon and the conditions of the pond, Ray said it was fortunate that the boy was found. An hour after the rescue, the tracks leading to the pond had already vanished from sight.

“It was definitely a life saving event,” Ray said. 

Mother Stephanie Norris said she was grateful to everyone involved in the rescue. She said her son has been diagnosed with a form of autism that requires substantial support, she is working to find other resources to help.

“The police did a very wonderful job, even the neighborhood was awesome at helping me find my boy,” she said. “I’m pretty much at a loss for words.”

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, St. Elmo Police and Vandalia Fire Department also assisted in the search.