GRIFFITH PARK—A teen who fell through a sewer pipe system on Sunday, April 1 has been found safe. Jesse Hernandez, 13, was playing on a wooden plank above a building when it broke and he fell through at 5424 West Zoo Dr. The incident transpired shortly after 4 p.m., officials from the Los Angeles Fire Department received reports about the teen falling at 4:30 p.m., where a 12-hour search commenced to locate Hernandez. Over 100 LAFD firefighters and assisting agencies including the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks, Park Rangers, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Department of Sanitation participated in the search covering approximately 6,400 feet.
The drainage that Hernandez fell through is a closed system of sewage pipes which requires a detailed search along each possible path of travel. The Department of Sanitation assisted the LAFD to map out the system and determine any void spaces as potential catch points. LAFD Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces are utilizing gear designed for these technical operations. They mounted a specialized camera on a flotation device (similar to a ‘bogey board’) which was tethered to a rope and extended 300 feet down a pipe. Firefighters used gas meters and all available equipment to locate the teen. Approximately 2,400 feet of pipe was thoroughly inspected and the search was continuing when a maintenance hatch west of the WB134 under the 5 FY was opened to insert cameras. This was where Jesse was found alert and talking. Jesse was given a cell phone so he could immediately call family.
Picnicking in the Griffith Park area is an Easter tradition for the Hernandez family and over 20 family members were present. Jesse fell approximately 25 feet into a sewer pipe. The pipes are 4 foot in diameter filled with liquid at varying depth (2 feet and deeper) moving at 15 mph. The network of pipes parallel the Los Angeles River and cross under freeways.
Firefighter/Paramedics provided immediate medical care to the teen, decontamination and transported him to a local hospital for a complete medical evaluation. The Mayor’s Crisis Response Team commended the command post throughout the night providing welcomed support to the family.
LAFD Spokesman Erik Scott gave a press conference in the early hours of April 2 noting Hernandez was safely located. Scott indicated that the teen was found west of the westbound 134 freeway as it crosses under the 5 freeway.
“We would like to thank the entire Hernandez family for their patience and optimism. From start to finish, this was an unprecedented team effort and the LAFD would like to recognize the excellent teamwork among all agencies involved,” stated Margaret Stewart, a spokesperson for the LAFD via social media.