'Miracle' boy who was trapped in sewer pipe thanks 'God for giving me another chance to live'

PHOTO: Jesse Hernandez, 13, who fell through a drainage pipe in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018, is seen in this undated photo released by the Los Angeles Fire Department.PlayLos Angeles Fire Department
WATCH Boy stuck in sewer pipe thanks God for 2nd chance

A 13-year-old boy who was rescued after spending 13 hours trapped in a network of sewage pipes said today he thanks God "for giving me another chance to live."

Jesse Hernandez was picnicking with his family in Los Angeles as part of an annual Easter tradition on Sunday when he went to play at an abandoned building.

After he stepped on a piece of wood that gave way, Jesse fell about 25 feet into the sewer pipe, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

The pipes, which run parallel the Los Angeles River and cross under freeways, are 4 feet in diameter. They are filled with 2 feet or more of sewage that moves at 15 mph, officials said.

PHOTO: A file photo from Dec. 9, 2017 shows traffic at a standstill on the Interstate 5 freeway next to the Los Angeles River near downtown Los Angeles. AP, FILE
A file photo from Dec. 9, 2017 shows traffic at a standstill on the Interstate 5 freeway next to the Los Angeles River near downtown Los Angeles.

"Everything just happened fast and I fell," and landed in water, Jesse told ABC News today. "I thought I was gonna die but I didn't cause I got to stand up. ... It felt like a dream."

He said his phone fell out of his pocket while he was trying to use it for light in the dark tunnel.

Jesse stayed in one spot for 13 hours, keeping himself awake in the cold, wet, foul-smelling darkness.

PHOTO: The hole that 13-year-old Jesse Hernandez fell into that led to him being swept away into the drainage pipes in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018. Bali Construction
The hole that 13-year-old Jesse Hernandez fell into that led to him being swept away into the drainage pipes in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018.

As he waited for help, Jesse said he had both positive and negative thoughts. At some points "I thought it was gonna be OK," he told ABC News, while at other moments he was worried, "I was gonna die right here."

During the long and lonely wait, Jesse said he thought about his family.

"I didn’t want to lose them," he said. "I was pretty scared."

PHOTO:13-year-old Jesse Hernandez is pictured after he fell into a hole was rescued from drainage pipes in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018. Bali Construction
PHOTO:13-year-old Jesse Hernandez is pictured after he fell into a hole was rescued from drainage pipes in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018.

The fire department, working with the Bureau of Sanitation, frantically worked through the night and pinpointed the search area to a one-mile radius. Intelligence then narrowed the search down to a specific section of pipe, LAFD Capt. Erik Scott told ABC News.

Cameras used to inspect pipes for repair were employed as part of the rescue effort, the fire department said.

PHOTO: A 13-year-old boy was found alive on April 2, 2018, after falling through a wooden plank and being washed away into a network of drainage pipes in Los Angeles on April 1. Capt. Erik Scott, LAFD
A 13-year-old boy was found alive on April 2, 2018, after falling through a wooden plank and being washed away into a network of drainage pipes in Los Angeles on April 1.
PHOTO: A 13-year-old boy was found alive on April 2, 2018, after falling through a wooden plank and being washed away into a network of drainage pipes in Los Angeles on April 1. Capt. Erik Scott, LAFD
A 13-year-old boy was found alive on April 2, 2018, after falling through a wooden plank and being washed away into a network of drainage pipes in Los Angeles on April 1.

Early Monday morning one of the cameras saw handprints inside the pipe. Rescuers opened a maintenance hatch and spotted Jesse, said Adel Hagekhalil of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.

The teen said he screamed "help" and rescuers quickly lowered a rope to him.

Jesse said he first asked for a phone to call his mother and told her, "Mom, I'm OK. Where you at? Come pick me up!"

PHOTO: Jesse Hernandez, 13, who fell through a drainage pipe in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018, is seen in this undated photo released by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Los Angeles Fire Department
Jesse Hernandez, 13, who fell through a drainage pipe in Los Angeles, April 1, 2018, is seen in this undated photo released by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Jesse's stepfather, Arturo Ramirez, added that Jesse told his mother, "Mom, don’t get mad I lost my phone!"

Ramirez told ABC News he never gave up hope as he prayed through that long night.

A day after the rescue, Jesse said he thanks "God for giving me another chance to live."

He's also grateful to the crews who worked through the night, saying, "Thank you for working hard and finding me."

Scott said it appears Jesse traveled about three-quarters of a mile. He was found near the intersection of the 134 Freeway and the 5 Freeway.

ABC News
Jesse, who went missing near 5254 Zoo Drive in Los Angeles, was found near the intersection of the 134 Freeway and the 5 Freeway.

Jesse was taken to a local hospital and later released.

Scott called it a "miracle" that the 13-year-old survived.

"We maintained hope, we maintained intensity and we did not give up," Scott said. "But I'll be honest, we did not think we would find a viable patient."

After word spread that Jesse had been found, Scott said he has never seen so many men hold back their tears and embrace each other.