A three-year-old boy was rescued Saturday after sliding into his family’s septic tank pipe on Peck Wadsworth Road in Wellington Township.
Rex Wlodyka managed to remove a cap and wedge himself down into the pipe that his mother, Sarah Wlodyka, described as the size of a dinner plate.
Rex’s four-year-old brother, Tristan, ran to alert the boy’s father, who held on to his son’s hand in the pipe until rescuers arrived at the family’s home.
She said while Rex has casually gone on about his ways in the days since, she and family members are still catching their breath. He was treated for hypothermia and scratches at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
“Rex is doing terrific. He’s completely unfazed,” said Sarah Wlodyka. “Everyone else in the family on the other hand, is still pretty shaken up. We’re just grateful to have him here. He doesn’t even have a care in the world. He’s just happy to be back playing with his dinosaurs. We’re extremely lucky and we know that.”
The Wellington fire department and Southern Lorain County Ambulance District responded to the call around 12:30 p.m. Rescuers dug around the pipe and eventually cut it to allow more room to work.
It was estimated the child was more than halfway submerged in sewage inside the pipe. A backhoe was also taken to the scene by Wellington Township officials.
It took about 34 minutes to get the child out of the pipe, according to fire chief Mike Wetherbee.
Responders said the father’s grip on the boy’s hand is what saved him from sliding completely into the tank.
“If things hadn’t lined up the way they did, Rex wouldn’t be here,” said Sarah Wlodyka. “We’re absolutely and eternally grateful and indebted to the Wellington fire department.”
Wlodyka learned of the situation while she was buying supplies for her cake decorating business, Sweet Dream Cakes and Cupcakes. She initially thought she had lost her son.
“When I got the phone call, I thought he was dead,” she said. “I didn’t even know it was my husband calling at first. I thought one of the kids had dialed me by accident. It was just crazy noise and I couldn’t even make out what he was saying. When it hit me that Rex had fallen into the tank, I crumbled in the middle of the store and just started screaming. I was sure he was dead. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.”
When she arrived at the hospital, she was able to smell Rex before she could see him.
“He was very smelly. He’s getting a haircut today because it completely permeated his hair follicles,” she said Tuesday. “You can still smell it. It’s pretty terrible. In the grand scheme of things, though, I’ll take a smelly kid over the other outcome.”
Wetherbee said his department put a new cap and seal on the pipe and members of the county tech rescue team happened to be training in Wellington at the time of the incident.
“This was not your ordinary call but very possible in our jurisdiction,” he said. “We were lucky in many ways.”
Wlodyka said she plans to continue to remind her son of the incident as he grows up.
“A newspaper article is getting put up at his graduation and wedding,” she said. “This is going to follow him the rest of his life. Rex is a very mischievous kid. He enjoys flying under the radar so he can get into trouble. When a future date of Rex’s Googles him in the future, they’ll be able to see he once fell into a septic tank.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy photos Rex Wlodyka, 3, recovers at MetroHealth Center in Cleveland with his mother, Sarah Wlodyka, after he was rescued from the family’s septic tank pipe at their Peck Wadsworth Road home in Wellington Saturday afternoon.