YORKTOWN, Ind. — A Delaware County mother is pushing for answers after her toddler suffered burns to her hands and feet while visiting a splash pad in Yorktown on Monday.
On the first day to reach 90 degrees in nearly one month, Austyn Maurice took her one-year-old daughter Kai’Brea to the new splash pad at Civic Green to cool off. She said they were there for just a few minutes before her daughter cried out in agony.
“She ran from the splash pad and was running towards the grass and stepped on two manholes,” said Maurice. “She stood on it probably two-three seconds and then she realized her feet were burning so she bent down and her hands got burnt.”
Maurice said Kai’Brea immediately ran to the grass, screaming.
“Come to find out her hands and feet just instantly burned and shriveled up,” she continued.
Maurice said the lids appeared to have water or liquid on top and around them and ever since she noticed what they were labeled, ‘acid’ and ‘chlorine,’ she has feared a chemical was the cause of her daughter’s burns she said appeared in seconds.
“It was really scary, it was just like… panic. That’s all I could really do was panic and just rush her to the hospital,” Maurice shared.
According to the city, the two manhole-like covers are the lids to two multi-gallon tubs beneath the ground, used to store two chemicals, boric acid and chlorine. Town Manager Pete Olson said they sit in a secondary containment unit, which would catch any overflow, about six to 12 inches below the ground, and that they are checked through a system in a separate pit.
Still, there is no clear answer at this time about what caused the burns to the toddler, but the city said they are working to get clarification and find out if something needs to be fixed.
“I just need answers, that’s really all that we’re waiting for now — why it was there, what was there, just to get some justice,” said Maurice.
“From our standpoint, from the town’s standpoint we hate that anybody got hurt and understand the frustration by all means,” he said. “On the same hand, it’s our job to make sure that we’re doing things appropriately and we’re following the steps that have been predicted and we’re going to continue to do those.”
Olson shared they are working with the Delaware County Health Department and the project’s contractor.
“We’re going to continue to look for, you know, what could be a culprit of it,” he said.
Maurice said after she rushed her daughter to the hospital, Kai’Brea’s injuries were serious enough that she was transferred to a hospital in Indianapolis. She said the hospital ride to the city felt like a lifetime.
“I felt helpless. I couldn’t help her. It was just really hard to watch her scream and be in that pain and not being able to do anything but just comfort her,” she said.
As they were heading toward the highway, Maurice said she looked out the window of the ambulance and noticed that the water park was still open, even after they had alerted authorities of Kai’Brea’s burns injuries.
“There was still kids out there playing on it and stuff. They didn’t really take caution to it or anything,” Maurice said.
FOX59 asked town leaders when they were informed about what happened and asked whether the park was shut down. According to Olson, late Monday afternoon they were made aware that a child had burns after playing in the new sensory feature splash pad at the park.
“We went out we evaluate. I think the indication was that they were possibly chemical burns so we were looking for sources of chemicals,” he explained. “We tested the water to make sure that everything was in the appropriate ranges that they were and everything was good there.”
When asked about any potential liquids on the lids, Olson said they were dry when he arrived.
“There is a possibility that there’s some manholes that are out there that are made of steel and aluminum and that those got warm, so we’re testing those,” he said. “We’re investigating into whether there’s some heat-related issues. Obviously, it got very warm yesterday.”
On Tuesday, officials went out to the splash pad around the same time the incident happened on Monday, to check the temperature of the lids.
“One of the things that the Board of Health has asked us to do is to take some temperature readings on those manhole lids, so we’re gonna do that and then we’ll cover those up and keep the cones on them,” said Olson. He said then, going forward, the town will work to find a more permanent solution.
The area outside the cones, where children can splash and play, remained open Tuesday afternoon, but the area of concern was sectioned off by orange cones.
As Maurice is eager to learn exactly what the root cause of Kai’Brea’s burns is, she said it’s too late for her little girl who was already injured. In the meantime, she hopes any parent who brings their child to the splash pad will use extra caution and not let them anywhere near the now blocked-off area where she said this happened.
“I want to know why would you even put something there besides a splash pad where kids play and run at,” said Maurice. “It was definitely tragic and I’m honestly even scared to go to another splash pad just being there and witnessing all of that.”
She hopes the city will consider putting up fencing or instal a more permanent solution.
Olson said they have not had any problems since the splash pad opened in May of 2021.
“It was new to us. We’re trying to take the appropriate steps to make sure that it’s still good,” he said. “The system itself, it underwent review at the state level and also at the local level at the department of health before it could even be built.”
“We followed the guidelines, the contractor’s been made aware, and we’re continuing that conversation with them also.”
As for the long-term outlook of Kai’Brea’s injuries, Maurice said that is not clear at this point. She shared, right now, it is difficult trying to explain to a one-year-old why she can’t hold things or walk, but that her daughter is staying strong.
Maurice said doctors told her Kai’Brea has second degree burns on her feet and almost third degree on her hands.
“It was just, tragic honestly. I never want to experience that again. Never thought that I would experience that,” she said.