Pa. woman trapped in water, sewage for 3 days

July 25, 2012 2:47:51 PM PDT
Emergency officials say a Berks County woman is recovering after being trapped for three days in a basement flooded with water and sewage.

Fire officials say the stairs collapsed Sunday as 59-year-old Roselyn Willis checked on a circuit breaker, trapping her in waist-deep water in the dilapidated home's basement.

A neighbor checking on the Douglass Township woman discovered her Tuesday. Rescue crews needed nearly four hours to get the woman out.

"I never did a water rescue in a basement. We've done water rescues all over the place but never in the basement of a house," said Tony Boyd of the Keystone Fire Company.

Amity Township fire Chief Richard Ford says the tenuous structural condition of the house complicated efforts to get a dive crew into the water and free the woman. Officials say the basement likely filled with fetid water after a sump pump failed.

Rescuers needed to wear full diving gear because the water was contaminated with human waste and fuel oil.

"We found the woman sitting there, we asked her some questions, how she was, she said was okay. She had been there since Sunday morning," said Stephen Cantnell of the Keystone Fire Company.

Willis grew up here, those who know her describe her as bright and outgoing, but increasingly reclusive. Neighbor Sandra Norwood had not be inside in the house in years until yesterday, and was surprised at conditions.

"Just trash and stuff all over the place," Norwood said.

The friend who found Willis said she was glad she could help.

"She is really a dear friend, I don't want to lose her out of my life. So I was glad I was able to come over and saved her life," said friend Tia Quarles.

Township officials put locks on the house citing a list of problems from the tattered roof to the four feet of polluted water in the basement.

"We evaluated the structure and determined it is uninhabitable. That means the party who was living here cannot return until the problems are abated," said Chief David Franke of the Douglass Township Police Department.

Willis was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.


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