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Desperate thirst leads to boy stuck in chimney

This may prove to be one of the stickiest premises liability cases any court is likely to face for a while, whether in Utah, or here in Maryland - a child stuck in a chimney for four hours.

It involved an 8-year-old boy in West Valley, Utah. He was out and about playing back on Aug. 19 when he got desperately thirsty. He was several blocks away from home and apparently couldn't wait. As police tell the story, he happened to be near a home where he had recently had a play date with a visiting grandchild and decided to slake his thirst there.

The family who lived at the house had gone out to dinner and so the child climbed a tree, got onto the roof, and slid down the chimney feet first. Despite the narrowness of the flue and some twists and turns, the boy made it 30 feet down before getting stuck. Meanwhile, the boy's mother had called authorities to report him missing.

When the residents of the home returned they heard the child crying in the chimney and called authorities. Rescuers tried to drop a rope to the boy, but that didn't work. They eventually decided the only way to get him out was to cut an 8-by-5-foot hole in a wall. That did work.

Four hours later the soot-covered boy was handed over to his mom with nothing more than some scrapes and bruises. Police say that throughout his rescue he had remained very calm, asking only for some water, which was supplied.

At the end of it, one police officer said it's unclear who will pay to repair the hole in the wall.

This is a heartwarming story. But it also shows how strange accidents can happen. How can one anticipate such things? When the unexpected does happens and premises liability issues surface an experienced attorneys help can be invaluable in sorting out proper accountability and bringing closure.

Source: Deseret News, "Police free 8-year-old boy trapped in chimney for hours," Aug. 20, 2011

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