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Published: Thursday, 10/1/2009

Man, 80, rescued after falling into 60-year-old septic tank


CINCINNATI - Paul Paff had every reason to believe things couldn't get any worse Tuesday after he fell into a 15-foot-deep septic tank in his backyard.

Then, he started sinking.

Every time he moved his feet, or tried to climb out, he sank a little deeper into the mud, water, and waste. After three hours, the muck was up to his waist and the 80-year-old grandfather feared the worst.

"Toward the end, I got sort of scared,' he said from his hospital bed yesterday.

But hope finally arrived in the early evening, when a neighbor's dog wandered over to the hole.

Mr. Paff, who had been yelling for help for hours, figured the dog might be his last chance. So he growled and barked at the dog until he got it so riled up that it started growling and barking back at him.

The dog, a 9-year-old mutt named Murphy, made such a commotion that a neighbor, Stacey Walsh, came over to see what was going on. When she spotted the hole, she leaned over to see what had happened.

"Oh, my God!' she said.

"Call 911,' Mr. Paff shouted.

Firefighters from several jurisdictions toiled for about three more hours before finally rescuing him. Rescuers scrubbed him clean with decontamination equipment and flew him by air ambulance to University Hospital, where he was treated. He was released yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Paff said he fell into the tank when he went to check a small hole in his yard. He knew the septic tank, which is 60 years old, was in the area so he wanted to find out what was wrong.

He found out the hard way when the ground gave way under him. The six inches of concrete over the tank had deteriorated and Mr. Paff's weight was enough to bring it down.

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