After 12 hours in L.A. sewer, teen calls mom: "I'm alive. Come pick me up"

A 13-year-old was rescued Monday after being trapped for more than 12 hours in the maze-like tunnels of Los Angeles' sewer system. Jesse Hernandez was freed after a massive search by police, fire and sanitation crews in a rescue officials called a "miracle."

"I was thinking like I'm gonna die and I was never gonna see my parents again," Hernandez said.  

He recalled what was going through his mind on Sunday when he plunged 25 feet into a four-foot-wide sewer pipe from an abandoned concrete building, reports CBS News' Mireya Villarreal. Hernandez traveled through a dark tunnel beneath Los Angeles, filled with rushing water, sewage and toxic gas.

More than 100 first responders launched a frantic search, using cameras placed on flotation devices to comb through over 2,400 feet of pipe. A breakthrough came when one camera captured hand prints along the walls of the tunnel.

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Footage from camera used inside the tunnel during the recovery effort.

CBS News

"Right away our guys were saying okay it looks like it's close, he's somewhere close by," said Adel Hagekhailil of Los Angeles Sanitation.

After more than 12 hours underground, rescuers finally found Hernandez nearly a mile east of where he first fell in. Officials tell CBS News if he had gone any further, he may have been lost in the maze of drainage tunnels that snake below the city.

"I knew like that they were like gonna come in or something so they could like track me down, so they could know where I'm at," Hernandez said.

After sanitation crews pulled him to safety, he immediately asked for a cellphone so he could personally deliver the good news to his mother, with some humor, saying, "Mom I'm alive. Come pick me up."