6-year-old girl recovering after frightening fall into Bronx manhole during snowstorm

BRONX (WABC) -- A 6-year-old girl is recovering after a frightening fall down a manhole in the Bronx during the weekend's snowstorm, becoming trapped in icy water.

Her mother was frantic for help. Luckily some Good Samaritans nearby came to the rescue. Now they are sharing details about the harrowing ordeal.

When you see the bravery of this little girl and hear what she's been through, you may wonder if you would have remained as calm.

But there are even bigger questions surrounding this dangerous hole: how long was it there and even after the mishap, why did it take the city two days to fix it?

"Your daughter just vanished?", we asked the mother, Sharon Burrell. "I know, I went crazy and I lost my mind," she said.

While walking in the snow Saturday afternoon, her little girl fell 8 feet into an opening where the ground had eroded around a manhole at the NYCHA-run St. Mary's Houses in the Bronx.

"She's trapped down there, screaming help me mommy, mommy help me," said Sharon.

Three young men nearby heard the screams. The tallest with his buddies holding onto his legs was lowered into the hole head first.

"I could see her face looking up at me, she was scared nodding her head and crying and I told her to stay calm," said rescuer Andres Machuca.

6-year-old Kalima, 8 feet down in a dark hole, icy water up to her waist, showed a courage beyond her years.

"She had to step on the pipes and grab my hand if not for her being so strong I don't know what would have happened," said rescuer Machuca.

Jim Hoffer: "What were you thinking when you were in that hole?"
Kalima Burrell: "That I would never see my mom ever again."

From a walk in the snow with her mom and in a flash being deep in the ground holding onto a pipe to keep her head above water, Kalima never panicked.

Jim Hoffer: "You were brave and then you grabbed onto that man's hands?"
Kalima Burrell: "Yes".
Jim Hoffer: "And then what happened?"
Kalima Burrell: "I got out and gave my mom a big hug."

Video shows that after Kalima's dramatic rescue Saturday afternoon, NYCHA maintenance workers placed a trash can over the hole.

It was only by around noon Monday that workers had measured the hole for a wood cover and then a layer of dirt. Some residents claim the hole had been there a long time.

Jim Hoffer: "How long has the hole been there?"
Felix Rodriquez: "About two-and-a-half years."

"Somebody has to be held accountable. My daughter's six years old, she could have lost her life," said Sharon Burrell.

The New York City Housing Authority is blaming the snow storm for eroding the soil around the manhole. A NYCHA spokesperson says they have covered the manhole to prevent further incidents.

And the spokesperson sent us an email saying that a contractor is going to install a fence around the manhole as early as Tuesday.
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