A SHOCKED couple are calling for action after a manhole cover gave way and their three-year-old son narrowly avoided plummeting into a drain.

Stewart and Amy Akenhead want more checks to be carried out after young Oliver fell into a manhole in Kelloe, County Durham, on Tuesday afternoon (August 19).

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The youngster was walking across a grassed area used for children’s games when he stepped on a manhole cover.

One side went under and Oliver fell into the shaft.

Luckily, he threw out his arms and stopped himself going down the shaft – only falling in as high as his chest.

His panicked screams were heard by his sister Daisy, eight, and passers-by, who pulled him to safety and returned him to the family home, on nearby Ann Avenue.

Oliver was left distressed and suffered cuts to his legs and back and a blow to his left cheek, where the opposite side of the cover came up and struck him.

Mr Akenhead said: “What would have happened if he’d fallen all the way down?

“Daisy might have run ahead. Oliver wouldn’t have been able to get out on his own.”

Mrs Akenhead added: “I think Northumbrian Water need to do more surveys to spot things like this.

“For something like that to happen to a little boy, he was traumatised. It will affect him.”

Northumbrian Water responded by cementing the frame and securing the lid later the same day.

A spokesman said: “We are sorry to learn of Oliver’s frightening fall and glad that he doesn’t appear to have suffered any serious injury and that he’s hopefully none the worse for his ordeal.”

The firm has nearly 500,000 manholes in its North-East sewerage network and spends around £800,000 a year maintaining and improving them.

“It’s impossible for the company to regularly inspect them all and in addition to our own monitoring we depend on the public, agencies and councils who maintain grassed areas such as this one in Kelloe to report any faults, which we immediately deal with as a top priority.

“We appeal to anyone who knows about a manhole that needs work to please let us know about it.”

Call Northumbrian Water on 0345-7171-100.

Oliver's fall was captured on CCTV. To watch the video, visit thenorthernecho.co.uk