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Toddler Is Locked Inside Bank Vault

The girl is trapped when employees close door with time lock, not realizing she was inside.

August 15, 2003|From Associated Press

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — A 2 1/2-year-old girl wandered into a bank vault Thursday night and became trapped when employees closed the vault door, which operates on a time-locked system that prohibits it from being opened until morning, authorities said.

The toddler's mother works as a teller at the Washington Mutual Bank branch, and while she and the rest of the staff were closing the bank for the night, the little girl apparently went into the vault to play, said Menlo Park Fire Chief Paul Wilson.

The adults did not realize the child was inside the vault until after someone had closed the heavy steel and concrete door at 6:30 p.m., Wilson said, but by then it was too late.

"The vault doors are on time lock, meaning they are not able to be opened until 6 a.m.," he said.

After Washington Mutual security determined that there was no way to override the door lock, firefighters were summoned to the scene just before 7:30 p.m. Working with a federal search and rescue team, they set to work drilling a two-inch hole so they could insert a surveillance camera and drinking water into the vault, along with a microphone that allowed the girl's mother to communicate with the trapped youngster.

That process was completed at about 10 p.m.

"At this point, she is doing fine," Wilson said.

Fire officials had originally feared that the girl would have to stay inside the vault until morning. But a private concrete boring firm was brought in and determined it would be possible to drill a hole big enough for the child to crawl out through, Wilson said.

Wilson said that if everything went according to plan, the toddler might be freed by 1 a.m. today.

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