Fire chief describes miracle rescue of baby
When firefighters arrived at 801 Whispering Oaks Drive, they saw what looked like the chaotic aftermath of an F5 tornado.
They had no idea which scattered splinters of wood belonged to which room of the house.
And, most importantly, they didn't know if anyone was inside.
Then, they heard something.
"They just happened to hear her - just a little bit of a whimper - and it didn't last very long, but it was enough that they clued in on it, and they just feverishly went to work in that area," Victoria Fire Chief Taner Drake said.
Drake became emotional when talking about "the miracle" - how a 41/2-month-old baby was found alive about 4 feet deep into a 12-foot-tall pile of rubble.
The rescue took about 15 minutes.
"I don't want to use the wrong analogy, but in some cases, it literally is like trying to find a needle in a haystack," he said. "At the end of the day, I sat my guys down and said, 'This is why you do what you do. ... Your efforts today literally saved the life of that little girl.'"
The girl, Parker, was born Jan. 8 at DeTar Hospital North, according to Advocate archives.
Drake suspects she was in an upstairs bedroom. When the explosion occurred, she fell into the garage, which had cars inside.
A full-sized mattress shielded her somewhat, he said.
About five firefighters formed a kind of assembly line with at least one climbing on top of the 12-foot-tall pile, grabbing only what he could hold steadily in his hands.
"They became very methodical in the way they moved the debris so that nothing shifted or they didn't injure the baby or themselves," Drake said.
They saw either her arm or her leg first.
Ten firefighters were sent to a training earlier this year that honed their rescuing skills. The department also recently obtained equipment that makes the job easier, such as air bags and what are called "struts."
Although in this particular rescue the equipment was not used, Drake said, the firefighters applied what they learned well.
"I think I am most proud that our folks stayed so focused," Drake said. "We see a lot of things, but it's pretty rare to see something of that magnitude. ... In my 22-plus years, that's probably the worst collateral damage I've seen from a home."