US & Canada

California teen rescued after falling in sewage pipe

Jesse Hernandez Image copyright LAFD
Image caption Police praised the "patience and optimism" of the family of Jesse Hernandez, 13

A 13-year-old Los Angeles boy who went missing after falling into a sewage pipe on Easter Sunday has been rescued.

Jesse Hernandez was removed from a manhole 13 hours after becoming trapped while playing in an abandoned concrete building in Griffith Park.

Officials said he survived by finding an air pocket in the four-foot wide (1.2m) sewage pipe.

Jesse, who was found "alert and talking", is receiving medical attention, authorities say.

"It's with happy hearts that all Los Angeles city agencies are able to state that we have found Jesse Hernandez," Los Angeles Fire spokesman Captain Erik Scott said at a news conference on Monday morning.

He added it was a "miracle" that Jesse survived the ordeal.

Image copyright CBS
Image caption Police found Jesse after searching the sewer under Interstate 5

The boy had been attending an annual Easter holiday picnic with his family and had reportedly climbed a chain-link fence in order to play in an abandoned concrete building.

A wooden plank that he was standing on broke, plunging the teenager 25ft down and into the pipe, the fire department said.

Officials say they searched about an area of about 2,400ft and sent a camera attached to a flotation device into the sewage pipe, which contains liquid flowing at around 15mph (24km/h).

The pipe was too dangerous for rescuers to enter, authorities said, so they set up at different drainage areas in hopes of finding where the boy would be flushed out.

"That place is a maze," Los Angeles Police Sergeant Bruno La Hoz told the Los Angeles Times newspaper on Sunday evening.

"We don't know where the drain pipe goes to," he added.

Image copyright CBS
Image caption Officials believe the boy fell while playing in an abandoned concrete building

When Bureau of Sanitation officials opened one manhole cover to insert a camera under the busy Interstate 5 highway corridor, they were able to see Jesse, authorities said.

The boy was immediately given a mobile phone to call his family to tell them he was safe, officials said, adding that at least 20 of his family members were present for search efforts on Sunday night.

"The expertise of the Bureau of Sanitation was instrumental in this search," Los Angeles Fire Dispatcher Margaret Stewart said in a statement.

"From start to finish, this was an unprecedented team effort."