A quick-thinking 12-year-old girl saves 4-year-old boy after he falls into a sewer hole

A four-year old boy fell into a sewer and is now alive thanks to the quick thinking and bravery displayed by a tween who witnessed the accident.

Shayna and Rowan Sykes, their sons, attended Connection Pointe in Buffalo, Minnesota on June 12.

After service is a time when people can connect. As expected, the children flocked together. Rowan and Nolan joined other children running around on the lawn.


“They were racing, so I shouted after them, ‘Stay where I can see you!’” Shayna told KARE 11 News. “A couple of the other moms laughed and they were like, ‘Oh, he’s with the herd, he’s fine.’”

Three minutes later, Rowan was screaming: Rowan fell in an unsecure manhole that led into the sewer.

Sadie Peterson, 12, was there to witness the mishap.

Before Rowan’s fall, she saw the kids curiously lifting up the manhole cover. She tried to warn the boys, but they continued to play with it.

The sewer hole that Rowan fell into

“I yelled at them to get away from there and Rowan was trying to kick it down because he knew that it was the wrong thing to do,” Sadie said.

Sadie quickly reacted to Rowan’s fall.

“I didn’t even think at all because I was over there — I just ran,” she recalled.

Sadie Peterson, the girl who saved Rowan's life

Rowan had sunk approximately 4 to 5 feet underground when Sadie reached out to Rowan.

“Eventually I grabbed his hand and pulled him over and I got him to the point where his face wasn’t under water,” she said.

Sadie held Rowan, while Nolan ran to help.

“I thought I was going to slip and let him go (accidentally),” she said. “I was so far deep down that I thought I was going to fall in.”

Shayna ran, afraid for her life.

“I’m picturing the worst, that my baby is dead,” she told the station. “We got there and I saw his head above the water, gasping.”

Rowan showing the mark on his arm

Tim Dubois, another adult, arrived just seconds after Shayna. He helped lift out Sadie and Rowan and put the latter in his mother’s arms.

“We just sat here on the grass covered in poop and waste and I just held him and rocked him and cried and cried,” she said.

Rowan was left with bruises on his head and arm. Sadie held Rowan tightly as he fell out of her hands. The boy doesn’t want to talk about what happened at all. On the other hand, Nolan has bad anxiety after seeing his brother fall, so Shayna is asking people to send “peace and love” their way.

Shayna’s husband, Joe, picked them up and drove them home so they could wash the feces off their bodies before they headed to the hospital. They were advised by doctors to be aware of any symptoms of aspiration due to pneumonia or other bacterial infection.

Sadie Peterson and mom Stacy Peterson sitting on the grass

Stacy Peterson, Sadie’s mom, praised her daughter’s heroic efforts.

“She’s in Girl Scouts. We talk about helping others, we do first aid, and we earn our safety badge. But we’ve never actually had to use it,” she said.

Later, Shayna learned from Sadie that she was celebrating her golden 12-year-old birthday the day after the incident.

As a thank you, Shayna set up a GoFundMe to “raise money to add to a college fund, something special she’s always wanted, or anything she wants/needs” as a daily reminder that she is “absolutely amazing,” she wrote on the fundraiser page.

“You were exactly where you were supposed to be and you are exactly who God created you to be,” she told Sadie. “And you saved him. I don’t think he’d be here if you weren’t here today. But I’m so thankful.”

You can find out more about this story at KARE 11.

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