Teen who fell in Griffith Park drainage ditch speaks out after rescue

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A 13-year-old boy rescued about 12 hours after he fell into a sewage pipe in Griffith Park said he couldn't see anything after he dropped his cellphone during his underground ordeal.

Jesse Hernandez thought he was going to die while stuck in a sewage tunnel from Sunday evening to the early morning hours on Monday.

Hernandez was finally reunited with his family on Monday morning after rescue crews used special cameras to locate him about a mile from where he fell in.

The young teen was celebrating the Easter holiday with his family at Griffith Park when he entered a maintenance area and a board he was standing on gave way.

Hernandez, who fell 25 feet down a sewage vent, said the knee-deep water was moving very fast around him.

“I fell in and the water kept on pushing me so I stood up and just stayed in the hole for 13 hours,” he said. “It was dark and I couldn’t see anything.”

Hernandez was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

He said he’s doing well and is happy to be back home with his family.


Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott made the announcement at 5:41 a.m. Monday.

"We have found Jesse Hernandez,'' he said.

Firefighters had narrowed the search to two main areas and opened a maintenance hatch near the intersection of the 134 and 5 freeways and found Jesse, Scott said.

Firefighters gave him a cellphone so he could reassure his family, and paramedics took the teen to a hospital for decontamination and medical aid, Scott said.

"Based on intelligence and mapping we two have main areas of concern,'' Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott told reporters at the scene around 5 a.m.

Rescuers dropped cameras that could float along the bottom of pipes where Hernandez fell.

The LAFD was joined in the search for the teen by the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, Park Rangers, the Department of Water and Power and the Bureau of Sanitation.

The incident was reported at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday by a bystander, LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said, prompting a search that began at 5254 W. Zoo Dr., near the train museum in Griffith Park.

Hernandez and his friends had reportedly climbed a chain-link fence around an abandoned maintenance shack and were playing inside when a plank broke apart, officials said. He fell into a sewage system that led to the L.A. River.

The search extended down the L.A. River and inside a water reclamation plant in Glendale.

The system of sewage pipes is a closed system which required a detailed search on each possible pathway, Stewart said.

The team mounted a camera on a flotation device that was tethered to a rope and extended 300 feet down a pipe.

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