The California teen who survived 12 hours in a sewer pipe against all odds is describing his ordeal for the first time.
Jesse Hernandez, 13, was pulled from a 4-foot-wide Los Angeles drain Monday morning after 100 rescue workers toiled through the night as part of a systematic search that many believed could end up as a recovery mission.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the rescue's been hailed as an "Easter Miracle."
"I was just praying to God to help me and to not die," Jesse told reporters after he got some time to recover Monday.
According to Jesse's account, he was playing in LA's Griffith Park where his family was picnicking for Easter when some wooden planks gave way beneath his feet as he stood above a decommissioned sanitation building.
"I just fell down — the current took me,” Jesse told CBS2 News. "I stopped myself because the little tunnel started getting smaller, so I just stood up fast."
And that's where Jesse remained for 12 hours as untreated sewage gushed down on him.
Jesse said he had a cell phone with him when he first fell, but that he dropped it along the way.
Stranded underground with no way to get help, the boy said he all but lost hope.
"I was thinking, like, 'I’m gonna die,'" he recalled.
Meanwhile, tireless rescuers used a specialized camera to navigate the tunnels. Jesse's hand prints on the side of the pipe eventually helped lead to the boy.
About three-quarters of a mile from where he disappeared, Jesse was found beneath a manhole cover after half a day of waiting.
For anxious family members like his stepdad, Arturo Ramirez, it felt even longer.
"It felt more like 20 hours , just waiting, waiting, no answers," Ramirez told CBS2. "The more you wait, the more you think other stuff."