Police officials are searching underground drainage pipes and the Los Angeles River near Griffith Park, a large municipal park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, after a 13-year-old boy fell into a pipe that leads to the water body.
Rescue operations first responded to 5254 W. Zoo Drive, down the road from the Travel Town Museum at around 4:30 p.m. local time (7:30 p.m. EST) and were expected to stay at the scene for the entire night, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
The teenager was identified as Jesse Hernandez. According to a report by CW-affiliated television station, KTLA News, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Bruno La Hoz said Hernandez was in a maintenance shed near Griffith Park with four to six other boys, when he fell into the drainage system through a 4-foot-wide pipe.
“One was jumping on top of a wooden plank, perhaps not knowing that it led into a drainage pipe. The plank gave, the wood broke, and the kid fell right through it,” Hoz said.
Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Erik Scott also said multiple witnesses at the scene saw Hernandez sinking 25 feet from the roof of a solid structure into a drainage ditch.
Scott also added that the drainage system flows straight into the Los Angeles River through an elaborate network of pipes. Officials confirmed they are tracking all the pipes to find the kid. More than 100 firefighters are involved in the search and rescue operations.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the rescuers studied maps of the hundreds of feet of closed sewage pipe system and also sent a camera attached to a floatation device, 300 feet down a pipe.
The rescue crew set up at different areas near Los Angeles River and a drain near the Chevy Chase Drive hoping the teenager would come through one of them. “That place is a maze. We don’t know where the drain pipe goes to,” Hoz added.
When speaking about the rescuers going into the drainage area themselves, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said that it is dangerous for anyone to enter the area because of the hazardous environment.
Apart from the fire and the police department, the Department of Sanitation was also working at the scene to see if there were any chambers within the pipe systems where Hernandez might be stuck.
Reports state close to 25 people stood in a circle, holding hands, saying a prayer. About 20 of the teenager’s family members including his mother, aunt, and cousins were at the scene.
Hernandez is a resident of East Los Angeles. After his disappearance, his family asked the authorities to release his photograph in case anybody spotted him outside the park.
Devon Guevara, a 17-year-old boy who met Hernandez and his cousins in the park while playing soccer, spoke about the disappearance and said they separated and agreed to catch up later.
“He was really friendly. Most people you meet aren’t like that. We also feel guilty. What if we kept playing longer?” Guevara said.