HACKETTSTOWN - A Hackettstown 3-year-old nearly drowned in an old septic tank in a neighbor's backyard.

Allison Machigua was running and playing in the backyard at around 5 p.m. Sunday when she suddenly disappeared into a hole in the ground. Her mother says she fell 10 feet into a ditch.

The girl's family credits Luz Jimenez, who works next door and just happened to hear the little girl's mother screaming.

"I went to the kitchen to do something and I heard everyone was screaming. I thought they were playing or something," Jimenez says.

Jimenez peeked her head in and saw nothing, but could hear Allison crying. 

Allison fell down a hole that was about 16 inches wide and was stuck inside a septic tank that hadn't been used in over 40 years.  

Without a second thought, Jimenez grabbed wire to use as a rope and said she was going in. A police officer tried to stop her, telling her it was too dangerous. "It's dangerous for the baby, just let me go," she says she told him. 

She climbed in and found Allison neck deep in water.  When the fire department arrived, they sent down a ladder and she climbed out with Allison in her arms. 

Officials say holes giving way as this one did are highly unusual in Hackettstown. They were generally filled in back in the 1970s, which is when homes hooked into the city water system.

The homeowner is now responsible for filling in the hole.