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Woman dies after falling through rotting floor into well hidden under home

SALEM, S.C. — An 83-year-old woman died Sunday when she fell down a well shaft hidden under the rotting floorboards of a more than 100-year-old home in South Carolina, according to multiple reports.

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The woman, identified by the Oconee County coroner as Dorothy Louise Downey, was helping her daughter move from a home in Salem around 2 p.m. when she fell through the floor in the kitchen, according to WHNS. She fell nearly 50 feet down a well shaft that the home’s owner hadn’t known about.

Downey’s daughter searched the crawlspace under the house for her mother, but could not find her, The Associated Press reported. It took firefighters about four hours to bring Downey back to the surface, according to WYFF.

“I have not had a death like this occur in my 31-year career as Oconee County coroner,” coroner Karl Addis told WYFF.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office told WHNS that the family had known that the floor was rotten. The house had been built in 1920, property records showed.

Authorities conducted an autopsy Monday and determined that Downey died from injuries caused by her fall, the AP reported. Her death has been ruled accidental.