As It Happens

Man falls through floor of Connecticut home into hidden 19th-century well

Chris Town was helping a friend move into her new home when he suddenly fell through the floorboards and into the cold, dark waters of a 19th-century well.

'I was a bit shocked to find myself in a well,' Chris Town says after first responders pulled him to safety

Firefighters rescued Christopher Town after he fell through the floor of a Guilford, Conn., home and into a six-metre deep well. (Guilford Police Department)


Chris Town was helping a friend move into her new home when he suddenly fell through the floorboards and into the cold, dark waters of a 19th-century well.

It took a team of firefighters to pull the 67-year-old Connecticut man out of the more than six-metre deep hole, but he survived the ordeal relatively unscathed except for a few cuts and bruises.

"I was a bit shocked to find myself in a well," Town told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue. "I had no idea that there was a well under there, nor did ... the friend we were helping move in."

A 'soft spot' in the floor

Town and his wife Angie were helping their friend Diane Martin move into a home she's renting in Guilford, Conn., on Sunday. Town volunteered to put together a bed frame for Martin's 10-year-old son.

He says Martin warned him there was a "soft spot" in the room, but didn't think too much of it because it was on the ground floor. She asked him to make sure the bed covered the spot so her son wouldn't accidentally put his foot through the floorboards and get stuck.

"So I opened up the box and started putting together the pieces, the bed frame, and I was probably up to part three out of five, and I stood up, and apparently when I stood up, I stood up right on top of that soft spot," Town said.

"And I heard a noise and I looked down, and the floor is disappearing before me and I'm dropping."

The Connecticut home, which dates back to the 1840s, has a well underneath the floor. (Guildford Police Department)

At first, he didn't quite realize what was happening.

"I mean, we're on the ground floor. How far can I drop? Well, I kept dropping," he said. "And then I felt my feet going in water, and I went in water over my head."

Town managed to grab ahold of some rocks that lined the inside of the well and pull himself up until he was about waist deep. 

Then he heard his wife calling. She ended up standing at the doorway of the bedroom, afraid to go inside in case the entire room gave way. 

"I think I am still in shock," Angie Town told NBC News. "Surreal. I mean he was standing in front of me and he was gone."

Town says he felt around for more handholds, but quickly realized there was no way he could climb out on his own. 

"I'm not a kid anymore, right?" he said. "I don't go climbing walls on a regular basis."

His wife called first responders. After arriving, they lowered firefighter Don Venuti into the well. Venuti strapped a harness around Town, and his colleagues pulled the pair to safety.

"Certainly this situation is very unique and presented itself with a lot of obstacles to overcome," Guilford Fire Department Capt. Chris Gode told the New York Times.

"First one I've done in my career, and I've been on the job for 26 years."

Questions about the house 

Town says he was "chattering and shaking" when he finally emerged. Paramedics stripped off his wet clothes inside the ambulance and wrapped him in a blanket. He was taken to hospital, but says he's unharmed and doing well. 

"The fire department did an excellent job. You know, they are very good people who knew what the hell they were doing," he said.

"And I have my wife and them to thank for the fact that I'm still alive."

Chris Town, left, credits firefighters and his wife Angie Town, right, with saving his life after he fell into a well under a Connecticut home. (Submitted by Christopher Town)

The Guilford Police Department said on Facebook that the house was built in 1843, and likely had a well outside. 

"There was a renovation and addition in 1981. At some point this well was covered with simple wood flooring and no subfloor or well cap," police said. 

The landlord, who hasn't responded to media requests, is now responsible for sealing it back up and making sure the well is properly covered. 

Martin, meanwhile, told NBC she has "a lot of questions" about the safety of the home she's about to move her children into.

Town says he experiences "horrors" when he imagines what might have happened if Martin, a single mom, had fallen into the well instead. 

"What worries me even more would be the 10-year-old little boy who again, is autistic, and he doesn't swim terribly well … or the 13-year-old daughter," he said.

"It's not that I wanted to see the bottom of the well, and it's unfortunate that I did, but I feel that it's much better that it was me."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Chris Town produced by Katie Geleff. 

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