The story of 13-year-old Jesse Hernandez might have had a far more tragic ending if not for handprints the boy left on a tunnel wall after he plummeted through a broken plank into the Los Angeles sewer system. After hours of searching Sunday, city workers put cameras tethered with 1,000-foot video cables on floating surfboard-like platforms equipped with lights to look for clues in the maze of pipes where Jesse disappeared, the Los Angeles Times reports. "About 4am we were able to see on one of the video cameras some hand markings on the sewer itself, inside where it appears that he was trying to get out," LA Sanitation Department Assistant Director Adel Hagekhalil tells NBC. "Right away, our team focused on that location."
Hagelkhalil says workers headed to a hatch on a westbound lane of the 134 Freeway, planning to send another camera down to look for more evidence near the handprints—and when they opened the hatch, they spotted Jesse at the bottom of a 11-foot shaft. "The first thing they heard is, 'Help!'" Hagekhalil says. "They were thrilled." The cold, wet, and frightened boy was around two-thirds of a mile from where he had fallen into the system. Jesse said he was swept away by the current but managed to stop himself. He was hit with untreated sewage water throughout the almost 13 hours he waited for rescue. "I was thinking, like, 'I'm gonna die,'" he told CBS2 Monday night. He said the tunnels were dark and quiet. "You could just hear the water running through," he said. "You couldn't see anything." (Read more Los Angeles stories.)