Jesse Hernandez Search: How Crews Found Boy Lost in Maze of Sewage Pipes

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Rescue crews were on a desperate search at Los Angeles-Griffith Park in Los Angeles after 13-year-old fell through a hole and into a sewage pipe, sending him into a labyrinth of underground tubes on Easter Sunday.

Jesse Hernandez was playing inside an abandoned maintenance facility when a plank broke apart. He fell 25 feet down a pipe that heads toward the Los Angeles River.

It was a race against the clock to find the teen. 

One firefighter was recorded telling dispatch: “I’m at the entry site. The tunnel is about 3 foot wide, approximately 2 foot deep with swift moving water.” 

Firefighters searched the river as desperate family members watched. Rescue teams fanned out, having no idea where and if the boy would surface.

Cameras were deployed to search the maze of underground drainage pipes. 

It took 13 hours to find Hernandez. By then, the terrified boy had traveled three quarters-of-a-mile underneath a manhole cover where two freeways meet.

Rescuers removed the cover and pulled Hernandez out.

Firefighters say the teen was wise enough to look for light streaming through a manhole cover and waited there, hoping to be rescued.

"What we did was then work to get some sophisticated cameras in these pipes that can crawl on the bottom, float on the top," Los Angeles City Fire Captain Erik Scott told Inside Edition. "When we opened that hatch there was Jesse, cold, wet, hunched over in a small pipe and — to the shock of those members who were able to get him out — they determined he was alive."

Hernandez was covered in hazardous material when he was found. He was listed in serious condition and needed to be decontaminated.

"You have a miracle this boy is alive," Scott said. 

As soon as he was rescued, authorities gave the teenager a cell phone so he could call his worried family.


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