HUNTINGTON PARK (CBSLA) — A 13-year-old boy is safe at home after an Easter Sunday at the park with family turned into a nightmare when he fell into a sewer pipe, waiting nearly 13 hours to be rescued.
Jesse Hernandez was found early Monday morning after L.A. sanitation workers and about 100 firefighters toiled tirelessly through the night searching for him in Griffith Park.
He was found in a 4-foot sewage pipe in a maintenance hatch near the 134 Fwy., about three-quarters of a mile from where he disappeared. He was found as a “part of this systematic search,” Los Angeles Fire spokesman Capt. Erik Scott said Monday morning.
Hernandez was attending his family’s Easter picnic Sunday when he and some of his cousins climbed a fence and gained access to an abandoned concrete building near the park’s Travel Town area.
“I was playing, and I didn’t see that it was a little piece of wood, and I stepped on it, and I just fell down — the current took me,” Hernandez told CBS2 News at his home in Huntington Park Monday evening.
Hernandez said he fell “pretty far” before he stopped himself from descending further into the pipe as it narrowed. He was hit with untreated sewage water for hours. Hernandez said he dropped a cell phone he was carrying at the time.
“I was thinking, like, “I’m gonna die,'” said Hernandez.
Using a specialized camera, rescue crews were able to see Hernandez’s hand prints on the side of the pipe.
“Well, I stopped myself because the little tunnel started getting smaller, so I just stood up fast,” recalled Hernandez. “There was this big circle thing, and I just went up. Like, I just stood up there for the last 13 hours.”
For Hernandez’s worried family, it seemed like a lot longer.
“It felt more like 20 hours , just waiting, waiting, no answers,” Hernandez’s stepfather Arturo Ramirez told CBS2. “The more you wait, the more you think other stuff.”
After he was rescued, the slightly scratched and bruised teen immediately asked for a cell phone to call his family to let them know he was safe. Hernandez was taken to the hospital and released a few hours later.