5 kids rescued from Staten Island sewer system after they crawled into a tunnel, got lost

Mar 23, 2023, 3:12 PM

The New York City Fire Department shared these two images on Twitter showing a manhole and entrance...

The New York City Fire Department shared these two images on Twitter showing a manhole and entrance into the sewer system. (FDNY via CNN)

(FDNY via CNN)

(CNN) — Five mischievous boys had to be rescued from a Staten Island sewer system on Tuesday after they crawled into a tunnel, ventured deep inside and then got lost, according to the New York City Fire Department.

The FDNY received an emergency call around 6 p.m. Tuesday regarding children trapped in the sewers, Chief of Department John Hodgens in a news conference Wednesday.

Edited 911 audio released by the FDNY captures some of the exchanges between a dispatcher and a child. In one exchange, the dispatcher asked for an address.

“We don’t know,” a boyish voice responded.

“You don’t know?” the dispatcher said.

“We’re like … we’re stuck in the sewers,” the child said.

“You’re stuck where?” the dispatcher asked.

“In the sewers,” the child said.

Fire alarm dispatcher Marlind Haxhialiu said he asked the child questions to narrow down where the boys entered the sewer system, according to the FDNY. The responding fire units located the children’s backpacks at the entrance to the tunnel, which leads to the sewers under Clove Lakes Park.

Authorities determined that the children had crawled into the sewer system through the tunnel and had traveled up to a quarter of a mile further inside, Hodgens said.

FDNY Lt. John Drew said the tunnel had a 40-inch opening that later reduced to about 30 inches, making it difficult to navigate.

A firefighter entered the tunnel on a rope and with breathing equipment, FDNY Deputy Chief Joe Harris said.

“It was a tight space. The member had to crouch down and then crawl,” he said.

The dispatcher also asked one of the boys to guide them directionally. “Once you went down, were the sewers — left, right, straight — where was it? I need you to guide me,” the dispatcher asked.

“Right,” the child responded.

“To the right side. How long did you walk for?” the dispatcher said.

“We like … yeah, we walked a lot,” he responded.

From there, the firefighters traveled along the sewer’s path to find the kids.

“We walked along the route that we knew the sewer traveled and opened up manhole covers searching for the children,” Hodgens said.

Firefighters found the children by opening one of the manhole covers above them, and the dispatcher urged the kids to raise their voices and call for help. Moments after this, the FDNY said, responding units located and rescued the children.

The boys were brought to safety about 30 minutes after emergency personnel responded. They spent about an hour inside the sewer system before being rescued, Hodgens said.

Firefighter John Loennecker said the boys were “relieved” to be rescued and out of the cold, wet and dark tunnel.

“They were crawling on their knees for about an hour,” he said. “It was dark down there. They had one cell phone light, and that was it.”

All five kids were transported to Richmond Medical Center for evaluation. One firefighter sustained minor injuries during the rescue.

“I’m glad everyone was able to work together to rescue these five children,” Haxhialiu said.

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5 kids rescued from Staten Island sewer system after they crawled into a tunnel, got lost