GRIFFITH PARK (CBSLA) — A 13-year-old boy who went missing after falling into a sewage pipe in Griffith Park on Easter Sunday has been found alive and safe early Monday morning after spending the night in the city’s sewage system.
Jesse Hernandez was found in a maintenance hatch that opened up onto the westbound 134 Freeway at Riverside Drive just before 5:30 a.m., nearly 13 hours after he was first reported missing. The left lane, where it crosses under the 5 Freeway, was closed until 7 a.m. for the search and rescue wrap-up.
“It’s with happy hearts that all Los Angeles city agencies are able to state that we have found Jesse Hernandez,” Los Angeles Fire spokesman Capt. Erik Scott said.
Authorities say Jesse was talking and alert after he was found in a 4-foot wide pipe. He survived by finding an air pocket, authorities said.
“A part of this systematic search, the Bureau of Sanitation was opening a maintenance hatch to place a camera into there, and that’s where we located Jesse Hernandez, alive and talking,” Scott said.
He was immediately given a cell phone so he could call his family, he said.
The boy had been at Griffith Park with his family, who was holding its annual Easter picnic at the park. Jesse and his friends had reportedly climbed a chain-link fence and found an abandoned concrete building and were playing inside when a plank broke and opened up a hole to a sewer pipe.
The pipes are 4 feet in diameter and are filled with liquid at varying depths, between 2 feet and deeper, moving at 15 mph, and run parallel to the LA River and cross under freeways. The search required expertise from across nine local agencies — including the fire department, the California Highway Patrol, park rangers, the Bureau of Sanitation and LADWP — to analyze the system and pinpoint any and all likely areas where Jesse could surface.
“The expertise of the Bureau of Sanitation was instrumental in this search,” Los Angeles Fire Dispatcher Margaret Stewart said in a statement. “From start to finish, this was an unprecedented team effort.”
The search for Jesse began at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, and continued well into the night and into Monday morning.
Jesse, who is expected to reunite soon with his family, will also have to be decontaminated after spending the night in the sewage system.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)