by Ted Greenberg
A mother from Cumberland County, New Jersey, said she'll never look at a heating duct the same way after finding her young son inside one.
"I have nightmares about this," Ashley Kahn said. "All I see is his eyes and the top of his head."
On Sunday morning Kahn's 18-months-old son Patrick, somehow got past a grate and plummeted 10 feet down the ductwork of the family's Millville home.
The toddler ended up trapped behind a wall after falling from the bedroom he shares with his brother to the dining room one floor below.
"I thought I was going to lose him. I thought he was going to suffocate," Kahn said. "It was the scariest day of my life."
"He was crying. It was one of the one times, I really didn't mind him crying," said the boy's father, Paul Blakeslee.
Blakeslee called 911.
Millville firefighters soon arrived and began tearing apart the wall, first with their hands, then cutting tools.
"About a foot above the baby's head is where we cut the duct work open. He was wedged down inside the bottom," said firefighter Doug Hallquist, with the Millville Fire Department. "As soon as I touched him on the of the head, his left arm immediately went up in the air looking for someone to grab him."
Within 10 minutes Patrick was free, and amazingly, unscathed.
"I'm happy for firefighters," Kahn said. "They kept it all nice and calm, and they made me feel like they were definitely going to get him no matter what it took."
The boy's parents said they never realized the heating grate could open.
"If I had any suspicions that they were, they wouldn't have even been in that room," Blakeslee said.
City inspectors came to the house on Wednesday.
The couple's landlord now has until Monday to make sure all of the vents are properly secured.
"This was a first. The last time we got anything out of ductwork was a cat," Hallquist said.
A dresser now covers the heating duct where the toddler took the plunge.