A Minto, North Dakota boy experienced a very close call on this day in 1908. The five-year-old boy, Dominick Ronkowski, was fished from the family’s cistern after being submersed for over five minutes. Miraculously, the boy was revived by a doctor and emerged unharmed from the incident. It all began when Mrs. Ronkowski sent her son to retrieve some potatoes from the lower level of the house. The family lived above the father’s pool hall, and the vegetables were stored in a cellar room on the first floor. Beneath the cellar’s floor, a cistern used to store water had been dug.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Ronkowski noticed that the boy had not yet returned from fetching the potatoes. She went looking through the house for him, but could not locate her son. After speaking with her husband, Mr. Ronkowski remembered that he had left the lid of the cistern open earlier in the day to ventilate the pool. Rushing to the cellar room, the parents quickly searched for the boy but could not find him. The pool of water in the cistern was motionless, but Mr. Ronkowski decided to search the cavern anyhow. He grabbed a hooked pole from the wall that was normally used to fish out objects that were dropped into the cistern. Pushing the hook down into the cistern, Mr. Ronkowski felt something hit the end of the pole at the bottom of the pool. He pulled hard on the pole to bring the object to the surface, and brought out his son, hooked securely to the pole by his clothing.
Their son was not breathing, and the family believed that he had drowned. They took the boy upstairs, and called to Dr. Norton who, as luck would have it, was passing by the house. Although Dominick was not breathing, the doctor could trace faint heartbeats from the boy’s chest. Norton worked for an hour at emptying water from the boy’s lungs, and Dominick was slowly brought back to life. Over five minutes underwater left the boy with no lasting affects, and he attained a complete recovery. The Minto Journal judged the event “…a pretty close call.”
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Evening Ed. June 20, 1908: p. 2.