When Paula Andrews went to throw garbage into a massive trash compactor at her Everett, Wash., apartment complex last Friday, she heard faint, muffled baby sounds. Hoping the cries were being produced by a doll, she dug down through two feet of garbage - only to find a real, newborn baby boy who had been discarded to die in the compactor.
Andrews, who works as a maintenance supervisor at the complex, said after she made the decision to go inside the trash compactor and begin digging, there was no getting out until she had an answer, reports The Washington Post.
"She must have gone through about 2½ feet of garbage, probably about 20 garbage bags, and discovers this brand new, newborn child there," her boyfriend, Jeff Meyers, told NBC affiliate KING. "She kind of jumped out of the garbage compactor, went to her knees crying and said, 'I can't believe it's a real baby. I can't believe somebody had done this.'"
Meyers told CBS affiliate KUTV the situation could have turned out much differently.
"I mean, thank God Paula didn't hit that button; I mean, had that baby not cried one second before she hit that button, we'd be out here for a much worse story," he said, noting that the child was covered in blood and still had its umbilical cord attached.
Officers arrived at the scene moments later and removed the baby from the dumpster, according to police. The baby, a boy, was rushed to a hospital on Friday night. The infant remains in stable condition and police are investigating the incident.
"There is no indication when or why the newborn was left in the dumpster," Officer Aaron Snell, a public information officer with the Everett Police Department, told The Washington Post. He said investigators plan to submit evidence to the Washington State Patrol's crime laboratory to match the child's DNA samples to his mother.
"If someone has been entered into the system, a match could potentially come up," he said.
Officials pointed out this outcome didn't need to occur. In Washington state, a safe haven law gives new mothers 72 hours to leave a newborn baby at a fire station or emergency room with no questions asked, and no charges filed.
Regardless of where the baby came from, Meyers said he considers the infant's arrival a thing of beauty. "We feel it's a miracle. It happened on Good Friday. I get emotional. I get emotional when I talk about it."