Crews used "Batman-like tools" to find teen stuck in Los Angeles sewer pipe for 13 hours

Teen rescued from sewer pipe

Last Updated Apr 2, 2018 9:25 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES -- Under a manhole cover on a busy Los Angeles freeway, sanitation workers found 13-year-old Jesse Hernandez. While playing on wooden planks in an abandoned building, Hernandez plunged 25 feet into a four-foot-wide sewer pipe Sunday afternoon.   

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Jesse Hernandez, 13 CBS Los Angeles

"The search, which lasted 13 hours, was a race against time as survivability diminishes in that toxic environment," said Erik Scott with the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).

More than 100 firefighters searched 2,400 feet of pipe in a maze of a sewer system that has different depths of water moving at around 15 miles per hour.

"Rescuers couldn't enter the drainage area themselves because of the hazardous environment," said LAFD's David Ortiz.

Crews used cameras placed on a flotation device and what they describe as other "Batman-like tools" tracking him by hand prints he left on the wall. After searching each of the access points in the system, Hernandez was found a mile east of where he went in.

"We gave him a phone to call his family ... they were happy," said Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of the Los Angeles Sanitation Department.