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Meter cover gives way

hurts mom and infant

September 11, 2000

Meter cover gives way; hurts mom and infant



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


April Fanelle Keyes didn't notice the water meter cover on the sidewalk in the 300 block of Jonathan Street as she walked home Sunday evening, her 9-month-old daughter Iyana Keyes in her arms.

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As she stepped on the meter cover it gave way and her right leg went into the hole up to her hip, she said.

The water meter cover, which was 10 inches in diameter, "was rusted through," said Hagerstown City Police Sgt. David Long.

As Keyes fell, she dropped Iyana and the baby rolled out on to the busy street, Keyes said.

"I was so worried about my baby, I couldn't get to her," said Keyes, 20, of 428 Sumans Ave. in Hagerstown.

A passer-by picked up the baby, who had hit her head on the sidewalk in the fall. Keyes' cousin, who was across the street and saw the accident, called for help.

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As she lay on the ground waiting for help, her right leg became numb, she said. Before she lost feeling in her leg, Keyes said, she could feel pipes in the hole and her left leg was bent back behind her.

"It was a shock," said Keyes who is about 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds.

Hagerstown rescue crews lifted Keyes from the hole where she had been trapped for about 15 minutes.

She and her child were taken to Washington County Hospital for observation and released, Ron Horn, Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief, said.

Horn said the water meter cover appeared to have cracked into two pieces when Keyes stepped on it.

Keyes was on crutches Monday evening, her right leg swathed in bandages. She had received a tetanus shot at the hospital, and said she was in pain from scratches and bruises.

She said her leg "was all chewed up" in the accident.

Hagerstown City Water Department Supervisor Jeffrey Burnette said that despite the accident the city had no plans to make a citywide inspection of the water meter covers.

"It was just an isolated thing. At this time we aren't going to go checking them," said Burnette.

A water department worker placed a temporary cover on the hole Sunday night because he didn't have access to the proper size cover at the time. A permanent cover was put in place Monday, Burnette said.

Burnette learned of the accident from a foreman but hadn't seen the meter cover, he said.

"I've never heard of this happening before," said Burnette.

He was unsure how old the cast iron cover was but said they typically have 40-year lifespans.

The water meters are checked by workers every three months when the meter is read, he said.

A special tool is needed to open the covers and only city water department workers can access them, he said.

Burnette said David White, the city purchasing agent, will check into the matter to determine liability issues.

White and City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman refused to comment on the incident. White referred questions to city spokeswoman Karen Giffin, who did not return several phone calls Monday.

Keyes said she was surprised to hear the city had no plans to check the other water covers in Hagerstown.

"They should check them. They should check them all," she said.

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