‘Miracle’ boy who was trapped in sewer pipe opens up
Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD)(LOS ANGELES) — A 13-year-old boy who was rescued after spending 13 hours trapped in a network of sewage pipes said on Tuesday he “was just praying to God” to be found because “I didn’t want to die.”
Jesse Hernandez was picnicking with his family in Los Angeles as part of an annual Easter tradition on Sunday when he went to play at an abandoned building.
After he stepped on a piece of wood that gave way, Jesse fell about twenty-five feet into the sewer pipe, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
The pipes, which run parallel the Los Angeles River and cross under freeways, are four feet in diameter. They are filled with two feet or more of sewage that moves at 15 mph, officials said.
“I fell to like a tunnel-type thing and I slided,” Jesse told ABC station KABC-TV on Tuesday.
He said his phone fell out of his pocket while he was trying to use it for light in the dark tunnel.
As he waited to help, “I was just praying to God” to be found because “I didn’t want to die,” he said.
Jesse told KABC-TV he had both positive and negative thoughts: sometimes he felt he would be rescued quickly, and other times he thought he was going to die.
The fire department, working with the Bureau of Sanitation, frantically worked through the night and pinpointed the search area to a one-mile radius. Intelligence then narrowed the search down to a specific section of pipe, LAFD Capt. Erik Scott told ABC News.
Cameras used to inspect pipes for repair were employed as part of the rescue effort, the fire department said.
“One of the cameras saw some handprints on the sewer inside the pipe,” Adel Hagekhalil of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation told ABC News.
Rescuers opened that maintenance hatch and spotted Jesse.
“When I first saw them I screamed ‘help,'” Jesse told KABC-TV. “I called my mom to pick me up and she was all happy and crying.”
Jesse said he left those handmarks in the pipes on purpose “so they could track me down.”
Scott said it appears Jesse traveled about three-quarters of a mile. He was found near the intersection of the 134 Freeway and the 5 Freeway.
Jesse was taken to a local hospital and later released.
Scott called it a “miracle” that the 13-year-old survived.
“We maintained hope, we maintained intensity and we did not give up,” Scott said. “But I’ll be honest, we did not think we would find a viable patient.”
After word spread that Jesse had been found, Scott said he has never seen so many men hold back their tears and embrace each other.
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