Calf survives fall into cistern

August 13, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A 6-week-old Hereford heifer calf was reunited with its mother Monday night after firefighters rescued it from a 12-foot deep abandoned cistern.

Full Moon broke through a wooden covering on the hole in a barnyard off of Scotland Avenue in Greene Township and fell to the bottom sometime in the late afternoon, according to Nancy Lehman, who raises beef cattle with her husband, Bryan and four children.

The red calf with a white face is owned by 7-year-old Brittany Lehman.

The family noticed the calf was gone when they heard its mother, Silhouette, bawling in the barnyard.

Assuming the calf somehow got on the other side of the fence, the Lehmans said they didn't investigate right away, thinking it would eventually get back to its mother.


But with no sign of Full Moon as it got later, Nancy and Bryan started searching the barnyard and the surrounding fields.

Bryan found the calf standing at the bottom of the hole.

"We've lived here 10 years and I didn't even know we had such a thing" as a cistern, Nancy said.

She called 911 at around 9 p.m. and firefighters from Franklin and Fayetteville responded to the scene with confined space rescue equipment.

Full Moon munched on some hay that Bryan threw down the hole to her while the rescue team set up a tripod hoist over the hole and monitored the oxygen and gas levels.

Equipped with air packs, two deputy chiefs from each fire department were lowered into the cistern one at a time, according to Kevin Kramer, truck sergeant for Franklin Fire Department.

The two hog-tied the calf, secured it with straps and hooked it onto a cable from a tow truck, which slowly lifted the calf out of the hole, he explained.

"It was a calf this time," rather than a person, said Gary Himes, assistant Franklin fire chief. "This was almost like an unscheduled drill for us."

The effort took about an hour and a half.

At the top, the ropes were cut and the calf was released to its mother.

"Within about five minutes she was with her mother and nursing again," Nancy said.

Full Moon got by with a small scrape on her side and a coating of mud, she said.

The Lehmans covered the cistern the next day with a concrete top.

"It was kind of a unique rescue," Himes said.

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