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Teen found alive after falling into drainage pipe at Griffith Park

Emergency officials work the scene hours after a 13-year-old boy fell into a drainage pipe Sunday afternoon. The boy was found safe early Monday morning.
Emergency officials work the scene hours after a 13-year-old boy fell into a drainage pipe Sunday afternoon. The boy was found safe early Monday morning.
Courtesy NBC Los Angeles

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Los Angeles authorities say the search for a 13-year-old boy who fell into drainage pipe at Griffith Park Sunday has a happy ending.

Jesse Hernandez was found "alive and talking" Monday morning, about 12 hours after he fell 25 feet into a pipe, according to Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Video from boy's rescue

Scott said Monday that the boy was receiving medical aid on the scene and would be transported to a local hospital.

Hernandez was celebrating Easter with family at Griffith Park on Sunday afternoon and was jumping on wooden planks in an abandoned maintenance building. One of the planks broke and the teen fell into the 4-foot-wide drainage pipe.

He was able to survive the night by finding a pocket of air in the pipeline, officials said.

Scott said a Bureau of Sanitation crew found the boy after opening up a maintenance hatch to place a camera down into the drainage system.

"One of the routine operations to open up a hatch and send a camera in to look for him, in fact he turned around, looked up out of the hatch, looking at us," Scott said.

The news the Hernandez was found alive lead to tears and hugs at the rescue command post, Scott said. The teen was given a cell phone and was able to speak to his family, who are "overwhelmed with joy," Scott added.

The drain feeds into the Los Angeles River through a series of pipes with varying depths of water moving about 15 miles per hour.

Scott tweet

The enclosed space, moving water and hazardous materials in the sewage pipe all complicated the search efforts, Scott said.

Officials studied maps of the closed sewage pipe system, which stretches hundreds of feet, and sent a camera 300 feet down the pipe, attached to a flotation device, much like a boogie board.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman David Ortiz said rescuers couldn't enter the drainage area themselves because of the hazardous environment.

Hours into the search, the team spotted handprints on the walls of the pipes as they were studying the footage from the cameras, Scott said.

"It almost looked like he was trying to claw his way out. At that point our hearts sank; now we had confirmation in fact Jesse was in this hazardous pipe system and that was [when] over 10 hours had already passed, and based on our experiences we truly anticipated that he was likely dead," Scott said.

But the team did not lose hope, and due to everyone's continued efforts, the search had a happy ending, Scott added.