Boy rescued from sewer recalls 12-hour ordeal

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Jesse Hernandez is safely back with his family now and recounting the more than 12 hours he spent trapped in the city sewer system under Griffith Park.

The miraculous rescue of the 13-year-old came after he was playing in a decommissioned maintenance structure and he stepped on a wooden plank.

It gave way and he fell through and into an open pipe, getting swept up in the fast-moving water.

"I was just like praying to God to take me out, for them to find me, because I didn't want to die," Jesse recalled.

Firefighters and city sanitation crews responded and systematically searched the pipes all night with the aid of high-tech cameras that were pushed through the system.

He left handprints as he moved through the system, hoping rescuers would spot the marks.

"When I was lying down, I was leaving hand marks so they could track me down and know where I'm at."

The marks were in fact spotted by city fire and sanitation crews as they went from drainage hatch to drainage hatch, lowering cameras into the four-foot pipes.

The marks confirmed for them that Jesse was down there - somewhere.

"Once we saw those marks, on the wall, I'll be honest, our hearts kind of sank. Because now we knew in fact we had Jesse inside of this hazardous area and it had been such a long time," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Eric Scott.

Jesse says he grew angry, then sad. He forced himself to stay awake because he feared he would be swept away again.

Then he heard the rescuers.

"After I saw them, I screamed 'Help.' They passed a rope. I was happy because I could go back with my family."

One of the first things he did was ask for a cellphone so he could call his family and tell them he was safe.

He's home now, after being decontaminated at the hospital.

The city has added more fencing around the maintenance structure and bolted shut the hole that Jesse fell through.
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