Kennewick woman tells of 'nightmare' in restroom

Jennifer Ayala of Kennewick would like to find the three Good Samaritans who freed her and her family from a Columbia Park restroom Monday evening.

The incident occurred shortly after 5 p.m. when Ayala and her two sons -- Peter, 5, and Robert, 3 -- entered the restroom, located in an older building near the golf course maintenance shop.

Peter closed the metal door to the building out of habit, and it jammed. Jennifer's cellphone was in the car with a dead battery.

"I'd been taking pictures of the boys," she said.

The next two hours were the stuff of nightmares, stuck in the restroom with a howling Chihuahua as joggers ambled past on the bike path, oblivious to her screams from the window.

Ayala tried everything she could think of to open the door, including prying it from the bottom with her fingers.

"I could just wedge them between the floor and the bottom of the door. I pulled as hard as I could and actually bent it a bit. but it wouldn't open," she said.

She climbed on top of one of the cement stall walls and tried using her car key to unscrew the metal grate over one of the windows. But the key was too fat and wouldn't fit in the slot of the screws.

She even tried waving her son's bright blue shirt out the hole where the doorknob would have been.

"I was hoping to catch someone's attention. That they'd be curious enough to come and check. But no one did," she said.

As the minutes stretched into hours, she began to get desperate.

"I was screaming at this point," she said. "It was upsetting the boys, they were crying. And every time I screamed our Chihuahua, Piper, who was in the restroom with us, would howl."

Eventually, two women driving by heard her and stopped to help. But they couldn't budge the door, so one went for help.

The man they enlisted for assistance hit the door hard five or six times before it popped open.

By then the kids and their mom were too emotionally upset to properly thank the Good Samaritans who came to their aid.

Ayala said she kept her composure enough to get her sons home, then "cried for a good hour."

She called the city of Kennewick on Tuesday to report the problem. Broderick Gant, the parks and maintenance supervisor, promised to get a crew out there today to fix the door.

"We don't normally close the doors to that facility," Gant said. "There's no lock on the outer doors."

Ayala described the entrapment as "a very weird experience."

"As a mother, it worries me. Here I was screaming at the top of my lungs in a city park and no one responded for over an hour," she said. "That's troubling."

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com