An investigation is underway after a four-year-old Larne girl fell into an uncovered drainage gully.
Ariana Stubbs was out trick-or-treating with her parents on Halloween night when she plunged into the gaping hole on Lindara Drive.
The youngster was left with bruises on her legs and was traumatised by the experience, according to her mother, Andrea, who witnessed the incident.
She added: “It was really scary; one second she was walking along beside us, the next she was just gone. I looked round and saw her head sticking out of this hole in the ground.
“Ariana was left terrified to go outside in the dark after this. It is a disgrace and she or someone else could have been seriously hurt.”
The Department for Regional Development (DRD) told the Larne Times it was looking into the matter, but believes the metal grate was removed by vandals.
A spokesperson added: “Once TransportNI was informed about the incident, emergency staff responded immediately.
“At the scene we found a drainage gully with the lid broken off its hinges. The damaged lid was lying inside the gully chamber.
“The lid was reset and left in a safe condition pending an urgent replacement of the entire frame and lid.”
The spokesperson said “extreme and deliberate force” would have been required to damage this type of fitting, adding: “Early indication would suggest that the damage was as a result of vandalism.”
The Department branded those who caused the damage “totally irresponsible” and warned that members of the public were being out at risk by this type of vandalism.
“We would urge anyone with information about this or any similar occurrence to contact their local section office. The Larne section office is available on 028 2566 2955,” the DRD spokesperson concluded.