Firefighters rescue man, 80, from hole

Michael Caron, 80, of Oceanside was rescued by police officers and firefighters after he fell into a sinkhole in his front yard Sunday morning as he went to get his newspaper. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Oct. 30, 2011)

Michael Ciron's walk down his lawn for his morning newspapers Sunday took a little longer than he expected.

Ciron, 80, of Oceanside, said that about 9:30 a.m. he fell 8 to 9 feet into a narrow hole that appeared in his front lawn -- landing in his slippers in wet, shifting sand -- before being quickly rescued unscathed by local firefighters.

"When I fell down there, it was scary," he said. "The dirt down there was like sand."

He started to call for help, but soon realized that his voice wouldn't carry far beyond the narrow pit.

"I started digging to get higher, because nobody could hear me down there," Ciron said. His head finally above ground, he started calling for his daughter, who was asleep in the house.

Maria Ciron, 24, said she woke to her father's cries for help, and went to his room to find him, not thinking to look for him in a hole in the front lawn.

"I couldn't see him from my room," she said. "I had no idea where he was."

After a few minutes, she discovered her father, who had by that time found a way to prop his elbows on the ground to give himself a boost.

Police and firefighters, summoned by Maria Ciron's 911 call, quickly retrieved her father from the hole.

First Assistant Chief Thomas Bettes of the Oceanside Fire Department said he secured webbing around Michael Ciron's torso, then with another member pulled the octogenarian out.

"He was slipping in as we were there," Bettes said. "His head was starting to go below the soil line where the grass is."

Minutes later, his vital signs checked, Ciron was deemed healthy and free to go back in the house and take a long, hot shower.

Now, Ciron is full of admiration for the "young lions" who rescued him, and wonders about the origin of the mysterious hole in the lawn. Father and daughter both think it's an old well or cesspool, uncovered by the wet weather.

While Ciron's usual Sunday morning routine was mostly derailed by the cave-in, at least one of his missions was accomplished.

"I held on to the papers," he said.

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