Apartment worker saves hypothermic infant from flooding sink

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A maintenance worker looking for the source of a hot-water outage in a South Anchorage apartment building rescued a hypothermic infant from an overflowing bathroom sink Monday morning.

The worker also found another child, age 4, on the living room couch and a 20-month-old in a bedroom. The worker couldn't find an adult and so called the property manager. Someone there called police at about 9 a.m.

Police said the children's mother, 21, was in another bedroom but was incoherent and unable to care for her children. Police called the Emergency Services Mobile Team from Southcentral Counseling Center. The woman was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center's psychiatric emergency room for an evaluation.

In the apartment, the tub had overflowed along with the sink. Water was a couple of inches deep in the bathroom, and the carpet was soggy. The running water probably depleted the hot water throughout the complex, said Anita Shell, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman.

In addition, plastic toys and coat hangers were smoking inside the oven, Shell said. The maintenance worker cut off the power to the apartment because of the flood, so the oven was no longer on by the time police got there.

Following directions of police dispatchers, the worker took the baby boy out of the sink and nestled him in a blanket with the 4-year-old. The baby could have died of hypothermia if the worker hadn't gotten to him, police said.

"He was definitely a hero," said Lt. Paul Honeman.

An ambulance took the children to Alaska Native Medical Center. The baby's temperature was dangerously low, about 87 degrees. But by noon his temperature was back to normal, Shell said. The children also were evaluated for smoke inhalation.

Police alerted the state Division of Family and Youth Services, which will place the children with relatives or in a foster home.

Detectives await medical and psychiatric evaluations to determine whether to seek any criminal charges. Police found no initial evidence of drug or alcohol abuse.



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