Toddler burned by ‘steam’ coming from manhole in downtown Denver

DENVER -- A warning tonight for parents as a toddler is home recovering from second degree burns. His family says he got the burns from a steam coming from a manhole in downtown Denver last weekend.

“It could happen to anyone,” parent Ileana Gallegos said. “It’s the last thing I expected.”

According to the toddler's mom, a steaming manhole is what caused the burns. Ileana Gallegos says her son saw the steam, thought it looked fun, ran towards it and the next thing she knew he was hurt.​

“He immediately started screaming and crying,” Gallegos said. “When I lifted up his pant leg, his skin was coming off, and he had bubbles.”

The manhole the family says caused the burn is part of Xcel Energy's steam system. A spokesperson with the company said the manholes offer a release point and it's not actual steam, but condensation.

In a statement the company said, “Xcel Energy is working with the family of the child who came into contact with steam condensate venting in the street, and we will continue to investigate the incident. Typically, the steam venting in the street is from moisture that comes into contact with the underground steam pipes, from groundwater or melting snow or after a heavy rainstorm – and not from the steam system itself. Generally speaking, all release points from this condensate steam are located in places where pedestrians do not walk or stand for extended periods – in the middle of streets and not on sidewalks or in crosswalks. Injuries from this type of incident are very rare, and pedestrians almost always take steps to avoid coming into contact with these locations.”

Now the toddler's mom wants others to be aware.

“As a parent, to tell other parents that you know be careful, it’s obviously unsafe. No parent wants to see their children in pain,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos is in touch with Xcel. The company told her to file a formal complaint. She says she wants to file a lawsuit.

The company said it will continue to investigate what happened. A spokesperson with the company said they haven't seen a case like this, where someone gets burned from a manhole, in over a decade.

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