At 4:27PM on April 1, 2018 the Los Angeles Fire Department received calls reporting a boy had fallen in into a drainage ditch near the sanitation yard by Travel Town in Griffith Park. When firefighters arrived they encountered bystanders who stated a 13 year old boy, while playing near a former sanitation maintenance site, fell as much as 25 feet through a small portal into a subterranean pipeline that contained moving water. An immediate 'river rescue' strategy was implemented by the LAFD Incident Commander as resources were placed at strategic locations downstream in the chance the victim was moving through the stormwater management system toward the nearby Los Angeles River.
As details developed, it was determined that the portal let to the sewer system where pipes as much as four feet in diameter carried sewage water at approximately 15 MPH. The City's Bureau of Sanitation and Department of Water and Power were soon on site to work closely with LAFD responders to map out the system and determine void areas that could serve as catch points. The LAFD Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces quickly established a confined space operation, attaching a camera to a floatation device (similar to a 'boogie board') and while tethered to a rope, extended the device 300 feet down the pipe, to no avail.
With an aggressive and well-coordinated search continuing on three fronts, assisting agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, Sanitation Bureau, Recreation and Parks Department, City and State Departments of Transportation, California Highway Patrol and Mayor's Crisis Response Team soon arrived to assure the efforts would continue effectively and unabated.
As the subterranean operational area became more expansive, dozens of downstream maintenance hatches were identified and personnel assigned to search them. Soon aiding the LAFD effort were new 'closed circut' cameras perovided by the the City's Bureaus of Santitation, Engineering and Contract Administration, bringing added capabilities including lighting and the ability to attach to a pontoon which crawled along the pipe.
Operations continued in a strategic manner into darkness and beyond, as more than 100 LAFD personnel were partnered with allied agencies to continue the systematic search. As the search grid expanded, a lane of the nearby 134 Freeway was closed to allow crews to access sewer maintenance hatches, where at 4:55 AM, a pair of Sanitation Bureau employees discovered the teenager conscious and breathing amidst a torrent of sewage at the base of an 11 foot deep maintenance access site.
Despite his ordeal, the teen was able to summon the strength to grasp a sturdy hose that Sanitation workers lowered to him, and he was pulled to safety. LAFD crews provided a comprehensive medical assessment and decontaminated the boy, who was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated and released later in the day. No responders were injured.
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