AUSTIN (KXAN) – Pflugerville Emergency Services rescued a woman who was lost in the storm sewers for up to two days, per a witness’ account.
The Travis County Emergency Services Department No. 2 (ESD No. 2) said they received a call Tuesday night after 7 p.m. about a woman who was stuck in the storm sewers. ESD No. 2 Assistant Chief Mark Moellenberg said she was neither injured nor distressed when crew members found her.
“[She] had wandered into the storm sewer. [I’m] not really sure how [she] got access into there,” Moellenberg said. “[She] wandered into there and basically became lost — didn’t know how to get back out.”
Moellenberg said it was relatively easy to get her out. The incident took only 30 minutes and required one crew. She was also able to return home that night, he said.
Stacy Parks and Phil Rukovena were walking out to their car Tuesday when they saw a group of people gathered around a drain. Rukovena thought there may have been a dog stuck in the storm sewer, but “as we started walking up, I heard [someone] say, ‘Are you really in the sewer?’ And by the time we got there, she was answering back and relatively frantic,” Rukovena said.
Rukovena went to get tools to rescue her while others called 911. Parks said the woman in the drain was dehydrated and gave them her mother’s mobile number to call. Her mother answered and said her daughter had been missing for two days.
“She told me she had been in there for two days, and she said she was really thirsty,” Parks said. “I asked her how she got in there, and she said she had traveled [three] miles,” she continued.
“There are some mixed reports as to how long she was gone from her house,” Moellenberg said. “As far as how long she was actually down in the storm sewer system, I don’t have any confirmation on that. I don’t think that was real clear for my crews on scene.”
How she got in the sewer system in the first place is also not entirely clear, but Moellenberg said someone getting stuck in a sewer system is not as uncommon as one might think.
“We have had incidents before where somebody has gotten into a storm sewer system and didn’t know how to get out,” he said. “[It’s] not something we do necessarily every day, and probably not even every month, but it has happened before, and you see it across the country.”
He added it is possible for someone to survive in the sewer system for a few days but said being down there is dangerous. There is a risk of the pipes filling up when a storm hits, some areas of the drain may be oxygen deficient and there are various species of animals living there that you probably wouldn’t want to cozy up near.
“Our advice would be to never wander into – or crawl into – any kind of storm sewer [or] any sort of underground system like that,” he said.