A group of witnesses to a 2-year-old girl falling into a septic tank worked together to pull her out and revive her before paramedics arrived on scene Saturday.
The girl was walking with her mother about 11:30 a.m. at a swap meet near White and Papago roads, which is in an unincorporated area of Pinal County southwest of Maricopa, when she stepped on a corroded septic tank lid that covered an underground septic tank, officials said. The lid broke and she fell in.
"Everybody was working together," said Jeff Vaughn, who helped with the rescue. "It's hard to see a little kid go down in that way."
Lorenzo Rios had been making hot dogs at a nearby stand when he heard yelling and went to see what happened, he said through an interpreter.
Rios, who felt compelled to help because he has small children of his own, tried to go in to get the girl but the opening was too small. A group of bystanders held him by his feet so he could reach into the tank to get her.
Rios said through the interpreter that he was looking for the toddler with his hand for about two minutes before he was able to pull her out. She was black and purple when he pulled her out, he said.
"He thought that what he did was useless," Rios said through the interpreter.
Vaughn said the girl wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse.
Chelsea Cunningham, who is vacationing in Maricopa with her family from Canada, took the girl and immediately began administering CPR.
Soon, she began "coughing all that water and sewage up out of her," Vaughn said, and then started crying.
Cunningham said everybody cheered when the girl was revived.
"The whole place was just – (it was) better than a show," she said. "Everyone was pretty excited."
Paramedics took the toddler to Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tim Gaffney said. No update on her condition was available Sunday morning.
Rios said through the interpreter that it was "just a miracle of God" the girl was OK.
Cunningham praised the group of people who pitched in to help.
"We needed tasks done, everyone was on it, everybody gave the room," she said. "You couldn't have asked for a better crew of people around to get the job done."
Vaughn marveled at strangers' willingness to help someone they didn't know.
"It was amazing that everybody came together," he said. "It was great to help out and... be a part of it."
Cunningham, a stay-at-home mom, first learned CPR when she was 12 and has kept up with it ever since in case of emergencies. Saturday's incident was the first time she had to use it for a full resuscitation.
She said, as people, "we come upon a lot of weird situations," and urged people to take the time to learn basic first aid.
"It might not be as dramatic as somebody in a septic tank, but it might be somebody choking or it might be a big cut," Cunningham said. "Get the knowledge. It's cheap and doesn't take a lot of commitment."
Reporter D.S. Woodfill contributed to this article.