FRACKVILLE — A 12-year-old girl from Schuylkill County is on her way home from the hospital after being swept nearly half a mile underground in a flooded drainpipe.
It happened Monday afternoon when firefighters were called to Mahanoy Creek in Frackville.
Taylor Russell is quite a girl with quite a story. She was swept nearly half a mile underground in that drainpipe in Frackville.
She told us today she held her breath the whole time, certain she was going to die. But in her hospital room she had a lot of smiles as she talked about surviving.
“I think I’m going to be better before I’m married,” she laughed.
Taylor will probably recover a long time before that. In her room at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville, she showed us her many bumps and bruises after a rough ride. And she told us what happened when she and some friends checked out flash flooding at a drainpipe along Arch Street.
“I didn’t know there was a drop in the ground there and I went under and was trying to get up and my friends tried helping me and they couldn’t,” Taylor recalled.
The water was much higher on Monday, whipping into a pipe that led right under the road and hundreds of yards underground.
“I was swooped under, and I tried to look back and see if my sister was there, and I was trying to yell and I couldn’t because I didn’t want to open my mouth so I didn’t get anything in my mouth.”
This is a little girl who lost her mom to cancer last year. She says she heard her mom’s voice as she was submerged in that pitch dark.
“It was just scary, dark, scary. My mom helped me through, though. I was thinking of everyone, my dad, my mom, my new mom, my sisters and my brothers. I was just praying that I would make it through,” said Taylor.
When she came out of the pipe, she was swept hundreds of yards downstream.
“I came out and I kept hitting my head off of stuff because there were rocks in the water, and I grabbed on to some rocks and tried to grab on to some trees and kept yelling ‘Please help me, I’m stuck!'”
In the meantime, her dad Brian Russell got word she was missing and rushed to the pipe. He was ready to crawl up in it to find her.
“You start losing hope very quickly when you see the pipe where she entered,” said Brian Russell. “You start to believe it’s impossible and then…”
And then he got word, this sweet little girl of his was found safe downstream.
“Oh, best thing in the world,” he said. “Best thing in the world when I knew she was OK and she just looked very beaten up. She was breathing, she was talking, and she told me she missed me.”
“I’m still alive,” said Taylor as she remembered coming out of the pipe. “I was so (fearful), like somebody pinch me, I’m still alive, I’m here.”
Taylor was being discharged Tuesday afternoon and thrilled to be heading home.
She said she is really afraid of water right now, but says she’ll take it step by step getting over that fear.
The family thanks everyone who helped find her.