Location: Port St. Lucie, Florida
Date: July 7, 1992
On July 7, 1992, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, two-and-a-half-year-old Kristine Cole was watching television with her nine-year-old brother, Billy, and Melissa McAvoy, a teenage neighborhood girl who was helping their mother, Laura, to watch the three children. Laura describes young Kristine as mischievous and full of fun; Billy describes her as "being a pain" sometimes, and "bossy" other times. Both agree that Kristine is a fun and active little girl. While Melissa watched Kristine and Billy, Laura held her baby son and talked on the telephone.
During one commercial break, Kristine skipped into the kitchen and told her mother that she had to use the bathroom. The Coles were in the middle of toilet-training her, so Laura told her to go on ahead and that she would join her as soon as she got off the phone. As Laura was wrapping up her phone conversation, she heard Kristine crying from the bathroom, and when Melissa checked on her to see what was the matter, she was met with an astonishing sight: Kristine had her foot stuck in the toilet bowl!
Melissa remembers being very surprised to find the little girl with her foot in the toilet. She tried not to laugh, because she could see that Kristine was upset. Murmuring comforting words, she plunged her hands into the water and attempted to free Kristine's foot. When that didn't work, Melissa gave up, went to fetch Laura, and explained what happened.
Laura, dumbfounded, thought, "How can a foot go into a toilet and not come out?" and rushed with Melissa back into the bathroom, where they took turns comforting Kristine and trying to pull her foot out. When it became obvious that her foot wasn't budging, they decided to pour dishwashing liquid into the toilet bowl. They thought the slippery soap might coat Kristine's foot and make it slip out. Unfortunately, Kristine's foot was wedged in so tightly that the dishwashing liquid wouldn't work. Laura began to worry about pulling on her leg; she wasn't sure whether the blood circulation to Kristine's foot had been cut off, and she wanted to make sure they didn't break a bone in her leg or foot.
When they couldn't try anything else, Laura dialed 911 for help. The dispatcher on duty listened to her, and then asked her to repeat herself. Laura remembers the dispatcher hesitating when she explained that Kristine's foot was lodged in the toilet. She told the dispatcher, "I know it sounds crazy, but it's really true!", but the dispatcher had doubts as to whether she was serious!
The call went out and Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce Fire Rescue units responded immediately. Records show that rescue crews were on the scene within six minutes. One of the respondents was a six-year veteran paramedic named Andy MacDonald, who believed that this was no routine call, so it was bound to be interesting. The head of the rescue unit, Lieutenant Larry Barton, believed that the situation was funny, but it was very serious! He knew that the small child would be frightened by feeling trapped and helpless.
Larry, Andy, and the rest of the rescue unit crowded into the bathroom to try and free Kristine's foot, but their efforts couldn't help, so Larry called on the only "toilet expert" he knew, Captain Bill Davis, who had worked in construction for many years. Larry knew that he would know how to work with this toilet. Bill was contacted in his car via the fire department radio; when he heard what was going on, he could only suggest to unbolt and detach the toilet from the bathroom wall, carry it outside, and wait for his arrival.
Laura remembers being surprised by this development. She had assumed that when she called 911, she would find people who knew more about toilets than she did. She never expected to have her bathroom dismantled, or that the toilet would end up out on the driveway! Kristine was screaming and crying because she was afraid of the men in the bathroom, and Billy thought everyone on the block could hear her!
Meanwhile, Laura's husband, John, was working in the neighborhood, and just happened to stop by his house to visit his family. He never expected to see rescue trucks in front of his house! On his way up the driveway, he was met by Billy, who quickly explained the situation. John rushed into his bathroom to find his hysterical daughter, his worried wife, and a crowd of rescue workers. The rescuers, who were now draining the toilet, explained that they had to detach the toilet from the wall. John tried to comfort Kristine as best he could while the crew worked on the plumbing.
When all of the screws had been loosened and the bolts undone, the crew was able to lift the toilet from the wall. Then, while John safely held onto Kristine, they carefully carried the toilet--with its reluctant passenger--out into the driveway. Larry remembers thinking, "Okay, we've got the child and the toilet in the driveway, so now what?" Fortunately, at that moment, Bill, the plumbing authority, advised the crew to stuff towels around Kristine's foot, so that when they broke the toilet, none of the pieces of porcelain would hurt her. Towels were brought out from the house and jammed into the toilet bowl surrounding her foot.
When they had made her foot as secure as possible, they began chipping away at the back of the toilet. Using the pick end of a pry axe, one of the crew members carefully chipped at the neck of the toilet. When they were able to break a piece off, however, they discovered that they were too far away from Kristine's foot, and that they would have to keep chipping. With a few more deliberately aimed blows, they could finally break apart the toilet enough to free Kristine.
When the last piece holding her captive had been chipped away, Kristine leaped into her father's arms and immediately stopped crying. The rescue team packed up their equipment, loaded up their truck, and drove slowly away from the house, all the time exchanging waves with the now-smiling Kristine. The little girl came out of the ordeal with only a minor cut on her foot. Her parents are delighted to report that she successfully finished her potty-training with no other setbacks. They will allow that they view their bathroom differently now, but they knew that, with children, anything can happen!