MARISSA, Ill. – A 13-year-old St. Clair County, Illinois boy miraculously survives being sucked into a culvert during heavy flooding in the area.
On Saturday, 12-year-old Aaeleya Carter of St. Louis was swept away in a storm drain earlier that morning and later found dead by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. That same day, Sebastian Calderon experienced that same horror in Marissa, Illinois, but he lived to tell his story.
“It was raining and we were just out here playing, and I was going to grab a ball and then just went underneath,” Calderon said.
The 13-year-old said he was in what seemed to be steady water when he was sucked into the culvert.
“We were just right there trying to get the ball and he just went right in,” said Xavier Trammeal, Sebastian’s friend.
Trammeal ran to tell Sebastian’s mom what had happened. Christy Stoddard and her husband witnessed the entire thing and ran to help.
“We’re sitting on the deck just kind of watching it and it goes that quick,” she said. “So, we see the boys come through and he says something about those kids are going to fall in that creek and it was no sooner than that came out of his mouth when Sebastian went down and it was just chaos.”
Stoddard ended up falling into the creek herself, but luckily her husband was able to pull her out before she was sucked into the culvert herself. At this point, it was a waiting game – with Sebastian’s life was at stake.
“I was scared because I didn’t know what happened and I didn’t know if he was going to be alive or not,” Trammeal said.
Calderon said it was pitch black in the culvert and he couldn’t see anything.
“When I first went in I started to pray…I kept using my hand to see if it was out of water so I could come up and get some breath,” he said. “Then I just kept going and at the end I started seeing drains. I kept trying to grab onto them but I couldn’t. So, then I saw the end so I just let it take me to the end.”
A local fireman was waiting for Calderon at the storm drain exit. Calderon suffered a few bumps and bruises, but he survived.
“I got scratches on my hands and knee and that’s about it. And the back of my head,” he said. “When I tried to go up and get a breath, sometimes I just got banged down.”
Marissa residents say for the past six years, flooding in the area has become a danger to the community.
“Anytime we get more than a couple inches of rain, child almost dying. Something has to be done,” Stoddard said.
The community is thankful Calderon survived, but residents are ready for local leaders to step up regarding the flooding that has now become life-threatening.