Jesse Hernandez, 13, and his cousins found something more interesting Sunday afternoon than their annual family Easter picnic and egg hunt at Griffith Park in Los Angeles – an abandoned maintenance building.
The youngsters started jumping on some wooden planks at the shuttered Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation building when one plank broke, plunging Hernandez 25 feet into a 4-foot diameter drainage pipe around 4:30 p.m., reported the Los Angeles Times. His cousins called after him, but heard only their echoes in response.
Authorities launched a frantic search Sunday night for Hernandez involving more than 100 firefighters, urban search-and-rescue crews and swift-water rescuers, the publication reported. The closed storm drain system beneath the park, which runs to the Los Angeles River, consists of miles of pipes containing varying levels of water moving at up to 15 mph with sewage and hazardous waste – making it too dangerous for rescuers to enter.
“That place is a maze,” Los Angeles Police Sgt. Bruno La Hoz told the Los Angeles Times. “We don’t know where the drain pipe goes to.”
After a 13-hour search stretching through the night, rescuers found Hernandez Monday morning about a mile from where he vanished, reported KTLA. Rescuers opening a manhole to place a closed-circuit camera for the search found Hernandez “alive and talking,” fire officials said.
“It’s with happy hearts that all Los Angeles City agencies are able to state that we have found Jesse Hernandez,” Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Erik Scott said Monday at a press conference announcing the rescue. Rescuers gave Hernandez a cellphone to speak to his parents and he has been taken to a hospital for treatment.
“As you can imagine, they were overwhelmed with joy,” Scott told KTLA.
Friend Devin Hernandez described Jesse Hernandez, no relation, as “really nice,” reported KNBC. They had played soccer together before separating for family Easter egg hunts, he said.
“It’s sad that this happens to him because he just came to the park to have fun,” Devin Hernandez told the station.
Rescuers used cameras mounted to flotation devices, similar to boogie-boards, and tethered to 300-foot lines to search storm drains along each possible path of travel for the 13-year-old, reported KABC.