Alberta woman honoured in Arizona for rescuing toddler from sewage tank

Chelsea Cunningham of Sundre, Alberta, was honoured this week at a ceremony in Arizona for helping to save a toddler's life.

"I will never forget this experience," Cunningham, a 28-year-old mother of three, told the Calgary Sun.

"I feel really blessed that I was able to contribute to someone's life."

On Saturday, Cunningham was one of three good Samaritans who came to a 2-year-old Kylie Lafferty's rescue after she fell into a sewage tank behind the farmer's market in Maricopa, Arizona.

The little girl had been chasing her dog in a nearby area when she stepped onto the septic tank's cracked cover. The cover flipped open and the child plunged into the tank, disappearing under the sewage.

The child's mother's screams alerted Cunningham and two men to the scene.

The men jumped into the tank and swam around until they found Kylie, who showed no signs of life. They lifted the little girl to Cunningham who then performed CPR and mouth-to-mouth until Kylie started breathing again.

Bystanders cheered when the little girl started crying.

"The whole place was just – (it was) better than a show," Cunningham told azcentral.com. "Everyone was pretty excited."

"She looked clean enough to me, clean enough to live," Cunningham said when asked if she hesitated to give the sewage-covered girl mouth-to-mouth.

"She's a beautiful little girl who now has another crack at growing up."

Emergency crews arrived in time to rush Kylie to the hospital. The toddler was released two days later and is expected to make a full recovery.

All three rescuers were honoured by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office with a Life-Saving Award yesterday, the Calgary Sun reported. Kylie's mother, Emily Howard, was there to offer her tearful thanks to the heroes.

"These three heroes risked their own safety to intervene and save the life of a complete stranger who happened to be a young child," said Sheriff Paul Babeu. "Had it not been for these three heroes, the young child would have certainly died."

Cunningham credits her father with insisting she know CPR. After Saturday's rescue, she's urging others to learn the life-saving technique, too.

"It might not be as dramatic as somebody in a septic tank, but it might be somebody choking or it might be a big cut," Cunningham said. "Get the knowledge. It's cheap and doesn’t take a lot of commitment."