FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A family is thankful after a toddler fell deep into a septic tank and made it out alive.
The incident happened Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Pig Tales restaurant at the Aqualand Marina on Lake Lanier.
Laura Cooper told 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross she was just feet away from her 3-year-old son Perry when he suddenly fell down a 7-foot deep septic tank. She said she thought he was gone.
"He looked up at me with this beaming smile, and then just disappeared," Cooper told 11Alive.
She said she screamed and ran over to the tank where she found her son completely submerged in sewage, his red toy truck floating on top. Cooper said she, her husband and her mom all thought the worst.
"Most of the stories you hear about this happening, the children don't live," she said.
But, Perry did survive. Sewage was in his nose, mouth and eyes, but the toddler had enough instinct not to breathe in. If he had, the child's pediatrician said, he would have gotten the sewage inside his lungs and could have died. The pediatrician reportedly credited his swimming lessons as the reason he did not inhale the sewage.
"Because Perry knows how to swim, he held his breath when he fell into the septic tank instead of inhaling the sewage into his lungs (causing him to drown or suffer severe infection). Just a reminder on how important it is for young children to know how to swim," she wrote on her Facebook page.
Cooper's mother and husband were quickly able to pull Perry out of the tank, and now he's on antibiotics to stave off an infection.
Perry's family immediately tried to contact the marina after the accident, but she said it took five calls just to get a response from the restaurant. And when she got in touch with the septic tank company, Cooper said they tried to tell her it was her fault.
"They tried to put the blame back on me and told me I wasn't watching my son," she said. "With my children, when they mess up, we forgive them, we forgive these people for what happened to our child, but there's still consequences."
But a video taken right after the accident shows Cooper flipping a lid off one of the tanks with her finger.
11Alive reached out to the septic tank company. Mike Gee with Mike Gee Septic Service said he alerted the restaurant to the loose manhole cover five days before the child fell. He said he accepts no liability.
11Alive has reached out to the restaurant but they have not returned our calls and would not let a news crew inside.
Meanwhile, Cooper and her family said they are happy the outcome of this incident wasn't more grim. They said Perry is alive, and that's what matters most. They just hope to use this incident as a warning for other parents to make sure they make it a priority to teach their kids to swim.
(© 2016 WXIA)