Dori: Federal Way boy recounts harrowing survival story after being swept down storm drain

Nov 12, 2021, 4:10 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2021, 6:58 am

Trapped in a Federal Way catch basin with thousands of gallons of torrential Puget Sound area stormwater runoff rushing over them, Elijah Baldivino told Dori Monson Show listeners on Friday about how he and a buddy “thought they were going to die.” Through it all, the two “prayed a lot,” clinging to a ladder in a concrete tank while they awaited rescuers.

While playing near a retention pond near 34000 Pacific Highway South on Thursday, Elijah recalls his friend getting “flipped and sucked down,” and then losing his own balance before getting sucked into the Thursday night waters. As powerful currents rushed past him, Elijah told Dori, “I was holding on to the tube at the entrance for about 10 seconds before I couldn’t hold on anymore.”

“The water was passing by me. It was pulling me — the weight of the water and the current,” the 12-year-old described.

Unable to catch a breath, Elijah recounted, “in that moment I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”

Sucked another eight feet through a storm drain, Elijah and his buddy DeVon were carried by the current to a catch basin where DeVon managed to grip onto an underground ladder in the dark. Elijah says he grabbed on to DeVon’s leg and hoisted himself high enough on the ladder that most of his body was away from the rushing current.

“I was saying, ‘Jesus, help us — help now!’”

Meanwhile, Elijah’s older sister ran three minutes home to alert their mother, Christina, who called 911. Racing to the scene behind her daughter, the frantic mom describes how she was uncertain what she would find when she arrived.

“At first, I thought the two boys were already drowned or unreachable,” Christina recalled.

When she arrived, she said: “I heard both the boys calling out to Jesus.”

Once she heard their voices, “I felt like there was a way out,” Christina shared.

Crews eventually extracted both boys.

Later, Christina learned that if the boys had not been found in the tank or if they had not held tight to the ladder, they would have been washed into a deeper storm drain section where a grate would have trapped their bodies completely underwater.

While Dori praises Elijah for being tough throughout the ordeal and now having a great story to tell friends when he gets to college, the boy dismisses the praise.

“I was scared,” he responded.

Now home with a whirlwind of attention from family and friends, Christina describes how she “thanked the Lord” and thinks of the boys’ survival as “a miracle.”

Listen to Dori’s entire interview with Elijah and Christina Baldivino here:

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Federal Way boy recounts harrowing survival story after being swept down storm drain