Three rescuers hailed as heroes after saving little girl

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

FLORENCE, Ariz. -- Two men and a woman credited with saving the life of a little girl were recognized as heroes Tuesday.

Henry Ricketts, 27, of Maricopa, Audencio Rios, 29, of Stanfield, and Chelsea Cunningham, 28, of Alberta, Canada, were presented with Life-Saving Awards from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for saving the 2-year-old girl.

Around noon on Saturday, frantic calls started flooding the 911 system, reporting that a toddler had fallen into a septic tank behind the Farmer's Market in Maricopa.

Sheriff's office spokesman Tim Gaffney said the plastic cover over the 6-foot-deep septic tank apparently collapsed when Kylie stepped on it and she toppled into the tank.

"She was right in front of me when she fell, but I dropped to my knees and tried to grab her," said Kylie's mom, Emily Howard. "The water was too deep to reach where she was in the bottom, and I started screaming, 'She fell, she fell, somebody please get her out.'"

When Ricketts and Rios heard the screams and realized what had happened, they jumped into the dirty septic tank to try to save the toddler.

"When I went in, I went all the way in," Ricketts said. "I didn't want to open my eyes."

He said the water was horrible.

Rios went in head-first with someone holding his feet. He went in again and that's when Rios felt the little girl under the water and pulled little Kylie to the surface.

Kylie had been underwater for four minutes, and things at first looked grim. But that's when Cunningham stepped in and administered CPR. She got Kylie breathing again and paramedics were able to take the girl to the hospital.

"I am absolutely grateful that I had the knowledge base to step forward and be of any assistance and be part of a team that kept Kylie alive," Cunningham said. "I'm not a hero."

Kylie's mother says she can't thank the trio enough.

"I just want to say thank you so much to all of you for everything," said a tearful Howard.

All three heroes were honored by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

Kylie is now home and doing well, with only a few scratches. Doctors are concerned about the time she spent underwater and whether it could lead to seizures or asthma. Kylie's family is looking into whether the owner of the septic tank may be liable.