VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Last Tuesday, Danielle McWhite parked in front of her children’s babysitter’s home off Valley Forge Lane in Virginia Beach. She and her three little ones had just gotten out of the car when she says her 21-month-old son disappeared.
“I look and he’s sliding down a hole and I hear a splash,” McWhite recalled.
It was so dark in the hole, she says she couldn’t see him, so she started screaming for help. Along the road were construction workers and she says one of them jumped into the hole to get her son out about 4 minutes later.
“All that’s going through my mind is, ‘This may be the last day I see my son.’ I didn’t know if he was drowning, I didn’t know what was going through his mind while he was in there I don’t know if he hit his head,” McWhite said with tears in her eyes.
Once the shock wore off, she says she realized her baby fell into an unmarked gas line hole. The photos she provided 10 On Your Side were of the 4-foot hole once crews put up a barrier after the incident.
“Be proactive. Why did something have to happen for you to do what you were supposed to do in the beginning?” McWhite added.
She says her son was checked out by an ambulance and ultimately went to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, where he was diagnosed with mild head trauma.
“It could have been a traumatic incident where he didn’t make it out. It doesn’t take long for someone to drown, less than a minute, he could have been dead, so I just want to bring awareness of the negligence,” she said.
To make matters worse, McWhite says she had spoken to a construction worker a week prior about covering another unmarked hole with so many children around.
“The thing is, I literally told this guy last week, ‘You need to cover these holes. Kids are around here, there’s a daycare, you don’t know what could happen,'” McWhite said.
10 On Your Side reached out to Virginia Natural Gas about the incident.
In a statement, they said, “Virginia Natural Gas is committed to delivering safe and reliable natural gas service to our customers. Safety is our highest priority. To ensure that safety and reliability are maintained, we have a number of enhancements taking place to modernize our system through our Steps to Advance Virginia’s Energy (SAVE) program. The Declaration Road SAVE project has been ongoing since June 21. Community members within the project area were initially notified of the project through letters in May and more recently through door hangers. VNG and its contractors are committed to workplace safety, including at construction sites. VNG is investigating this incident with its contractor and reminds community members to remain vigilant around any active construction site.”