In early April, rescue workers were able to locate and save a 13-year old boy who had fallen into a drain pipe. Jesse Hernandez had been playing on some wooden planks in a deserted building when the planks gave way, causing Hernandez to fall 25 feet into the sewer.
He was then swept away into the complex network of pipelines by the fast water current. “The water took me,” Hernandez recalled. “I was just praying to God to help me and to not die.” Hernandez was trapped for at least 12 hours.
After Hernandez was reported missing, over 100 rescue workers began the arduous and urgent task of finding the boy. Because the pipe he fell into was only 4 feet wide, rescuers needed to use cameras and other tools to track down Hernandez.
One of their biggest concerns was the toxicity of the sewage system. Rescuers weren’t sure how long a human would be able to survive in those conditions, so they were working against the clock. In addition, the intricate network of maze-like sewage pipes, along with the fast water current, meant that Hernandez could have been miles away from his initial fall.
“I stopped myself because the little tunnel started getting smaller, so I just stood up fast. I just stood up there for the last 13 hours,” Hernandez said in an interview. “I was thinking, like, ‘I’m gonna die.’ ”
Luckily. around 4 a.m., the rescuers were able to look through their cameras and spot hand prints along the wall of the sewer. Another imprint indicated that Hernandez had attempted to push through the wall with his shoulder. The rescuers knew he couldn’t have been too far.
At this location, about two-thirds of a mile from Hernandez’s fall, workers intended to open a manhole and put in another camera, but when they entered the sewer, they were shocked to find Hernandez waiting, scared, cold, and hungry.
“Once I pulled the lid off the manhole cover he was just like right there,” said one of the rescuers. Sanitation workers brought in a hose to pull the boy out. He was brought to a hospital but released to his parents not long after.