A Waterford toddler is recovering after getting stuck in an air conditioning and heating vent at a home Tuesday morning.
Firefighters were called to the home just after 7:30 a.m. after the 14-month-old fell down the ventilation shaft.
Somehow, 14-month-old Elijah Irizarry lifted up a vent cover on the floor and fell from the second floor past the first floor, down to the crawl space beneath the house.
"I looked down and I saw him in the vest. I just couldn't breathe," said Kristie Mendes, Elijah's mother.
Waterford fire officials said it was about a 12-foot drop.
Kristie said she had gone to the bathroom for a second and he was in a gated area of the hallway, but somehow got the vent cover off and fell in.
Fire officials said the child was conscious and alert, but did suffer some scrapes.
Fire crews were able to access the crawl space below the home and disassemble the ventilation duct work to rescue the toddler.
Elijah was rescued within 20 minutes.
"They did great, the first responders. Everybody, everyone that came in and helped to get him out as a team," said Kristie.
His parents said this was scary, and something they won't soon forget, but they still don't know how Elijah got the vent cover off. They said they thought it was screwed down to the floor.
Kristie thinks Elijah used a hanger to lift off the vent cover. He had never done that and she says she always assumed the vent was screwed down.
She hopes this can be a teaching moment for all parents.
"I want out of all of this to help people be aware that it can happen and like today, I'm getting all new grates and screwing them all down," Kristie said.
The Waterford Fire Department said this is a good opportunity for parents to inspect their vents to see if they are screwed in.
"Thanks to extensive training and the unification of all on scene emergency personnel this incident was mitigated swiftly and luckily resulted in a very positive outcome," Waterford fire officials said in a Facebook post.
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