Girls recovering from construction site fall

December 28, 2012 (TINLEY PARK, Ill.)

Friday night, one of the girls and her father are talking about the ordeal.

For years, it had been a vacant lot. The incline at the back of the lot was a pretty good sledding hill for a lot of the neighborhood kids. However, when construction began on a home there a month ago, mud and clay was piled up, and it became a dangerous place to play.

Eleven-year-old Nicole Salwierak walks out her front door to a reminder every day of the place where she could have been killed earlier this month.

She and a friend were playing in the newly dug hole at the construction site. They quickly found themselves buried by an avalanche of dirt and clay.

"I wasn't really thinking about it that much, but I was scared," Nicole said. "I tried to move the mud off my arm but I couldn't move it."

Nicole's 6-year-old sister Carly ran for help and firefighters from several nearby communities responded.

They had to dig the two girls out mostly by hand. It took about a half hour of digging all the while trying to keep the two girls calm.

"Still, when I think about this every day I could cry and I do," said Robert Salweirak. "The stress emotionally is tough on me and every member in this family."

Construction crews have since installed a fence around the perimeter of the property. Tinley Park has no ordinance making such fences mandatory.

Nicole spent five days in the hospital for injuries to her shoulders, back, and lungs, but she is grateful to have survived.

"It happened so fast that for five seconds I didn't know what was going on, but then I figured it out, it was real," she said.

"I think Nicole and her friend, Sarah, are two of the strongest, most courageous human beings I've ever met in my entire life and having them survive this is the greatest Christmas present anyone could ever get," Robert Salweirak said.

Nicole's friend Sarah was buried above her head, however the way the dirt fell over her created an air pocket so she was able to breathe and was able to communicate until fire fighters were able to pull her out.

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