P.J. Doppke knows he’s lucky to be alive.
The 10-year-old was playing with his dog and sister at Katherine Legge Memorial Park in Hinsdale, Illinois, on Oct. 14 when he stumbled in the nearby creek and got swept down a culvert and into a storm drain.
“I didn’t know how strong the water was until I got to the slippery parts,” he said.
U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
He was swept into the current created by all the heavy rain that fell Saturday.
The fourth-grader grabbed onto the culvert grate while his 11-year-old sister Lauren and dog Pepper watched in horror.
“My hand slipped off and I went right through and my sister started hollering her head off," he said. "And I was so scared because I didn't know where I was going to go.”
The water rose up to his chin as Doppke was swept through the pitch-black storm pipe until he spotted light at the end of the tunnel.
He scraped his back but made it under the grate at the end of the 1,000-foot pipe that dumps out in Burr Ridge.
Soaking wet, he found a hole in the fence and walked the half block home.
With only a few cuts and bruises, Doppke knows his storm drain slide could have ended a whole lot worse.
“I am lucky and I’m lucky that I’m still here right now,” he said.
One day later, another person from the area said his 4-year-old dog Hank took the same scary ride.
“He wore all his nails down so badly they started bleeding,” Mark Rosenberg said.
Hinsdale officials say they are investigating the best way to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.