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Teen rescued from well
Girl stuck two hours 65 feet under ground
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Miranda Brogan spent more than two hours wedged in a well on Saturday night. Emergency personnel carry Brogan to a waiting ambulance. She was later flown to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. (Bulletin photo by Eliza Winston)
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

By KAREN THOMPSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

A 15-year-old girl survived falling 65 feet down a well on Saturday night in the Mountain Valley of Henry County.

Miranda Lee Brogan, of Lovingston in Nelson County, was rescued after spending more than two hours wedged in the well. She was flown by Air Care to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she was being evaluated in the emergency department late Saturday, according to a hospital spokesman.

The well rescue "went pretty good," said Dan Howell, assistant fire chief with the Martinsville Fire and EMS. "It's not often that we've had to do that."�

"It's not something that happens every day, but we do train for it so we'll be prepared," Howell said. He could not recall such a rescue happening locally in several years, nor one involving a person stuck in a well.

The family, all of whom live in Lovingston, came up for the day because Miranda's stepfather, Andy Tinnell, had a job clearing the land at the site of the accident, explained Tiffany Tinnell, Miranda's mother. They dropped Andy off at the site and then headed into Martinsville to spend the day.

Around 5 p.m., the family returned to pick up Andy and go home to Lovingston. As they waited for him to finish working, Miranda, her half-sister Natalie, 11, her half-brother Leslie, 8, and Tinnell walked around the field, which was bordered by thick brush and trees.

Leslie explained they had found a pair of old jugs and had gone farther into the woods to investigate them. None of them noticed the well, which was beneath leaves and rotted wood, Natalie added. The family was walking through the woods when Miranda shouted, and Tinnell turned around.

"She just dropped," Tinnell said, who said her daughter screamed as she fell. "I couldn't grab her or nothing."�

Leslie said he saw Miranda fall. He was behind her when she stepped onto the rotten boards, and her left leg bent awkwardly as she disappeared, he said.

Tiffany Tinnell knelt by the well and "started hollering" for Miranda, "but I didn't get an answer." She told Leslie to find his father, and then she called 911 on her cell phone.

After continuing to yell down the well, Tinnell finally got an answer from Miranda. "I asked if she was hurt, and she said her back and leg hurt," Tinnell said. "She said, "˜I can't move my leg.'"�

Miranda had fallen 65 feet down the well, which was three feet in diameter. She did not land in water but was wedged tightly and in pain, Tinnell said. Because she had fallen so far down, Tinnell could not see her.

"You see these things in movies all the time," Tinnell said, "but you don't think these things can really happen."�

Rescue workers had to clear the area surrounding the well to move in rescue equipment and ambulances. Because it was just past 6 p.m. and dark, portable lights were set up on top the ambulances, and personnel used flashlights to examine the area.

The temperature also was an obstacle. Once the sun set, the temperature fell rapidly, and 65 feet under ground, the well likely was colder.

Tinnell said a helmet, blanket and walkie-talkie were bundled up and lowered to Miranda, who was able to untie the items. Due to the well's depth, the walkie-talkie did not get reception, Tinnell said, but Miranda was able to yell up to her parents and rescue workers. She communicated with them throughout the rescue.

To bring Miranda out of the well, emergency personnel prepared a haul system. It involves a tripod, set up over the well, to lower a rescue worker. Then the rescuer and the victim are lifted by ropes on a pulley system.

Keith Hudson, a member of Martinsville Fire and EMS, was chosen to enter the well. He said the haul system is similar to the rescue style used to get someone off the side of a burning building or descend into a manhole.

Hudson was secured to the pulleys via a rescue seat harness. He spent about 40 minutes in the well with Miranda.

Miranda, who was relatively calm, was not having trouble breathing despite the confined space, Howell said. But because Hudson was working and handling equipment, he was becoming short of breath, he added.

Personnel on the surface lowered a hose to Hudson to supply him with oxygen. That was probably the most time-consuming part of the rescue, Howell added.

"It was like being in a two foot by two foot cardboard box," Hudson said of the bottom of the well.

Hudson used a hasty hitch to secure Miranda to himself before they were pulled up. A hasty hitch is a type of knot and particular way of tying the victim to the rescuer, he explained.

After ensuring he was secured to Miranda, Hudson signaled for workers to lift them. Several men on the surface heaved the ropes by hand to bring Miranda and Hudson out of the well. It took about 10 minutes to lift them 65 feet.

Once she reached the surface, Miranda was wrapped in heated blankets and placed in an ambulance for a brief examination. Then she was taken to the Air Care helicopter, which had landed directly at scene due to the cleared land.

Miranda's family was able to visit her briefly before she was taken to the helicopter, and Miranda could be heard calling, "I love you! I'm okay!" through her oxygen mask.

Tinnell said her daughter was in good spirits following the rescue - but was concerned about her footwear.

"She was just worried about her boots," she said, laughing. "She kept saying, "˜Are my boots okay?'"

Tinnell and the family planned to drive to the hospital that night.  It was unclear Saturday night who owned the property where the accident occurred, as well as the future of the well. Howell said he believed it would be filled to prevent further accidents. Personnel wrapped the well area with yellow caution tape after clearing the rescue equipment.

Also responding to the accident were the Dyer Store Volunteer Fire Department, Axton Volunteer Fire Department and Axton Rescue Squad. A member of the Danville Fire Department also was present and Henry County Fire Marshal Rodney Howell also responded.


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