5 boys rescued after getting lost in Staten Island sewer system

Five kids who got lost in Staten Island’s sewer system were rescued Tuesday night after they called 911 for help, the New York City Fire Department announced.

“Our fire alarm dispatchers were on the phone with the children for over a half an hour trying to decipher where they were,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said at a news conference. “It took us 30 minutes after we arrived to find them and get them out of the hole.”

Fire officials said the boys entered a storm sewage system through a tunnel with a 40-inch opening in the Clove Lakes area in Staten Island. After they became disoriented they called emergency responders for help at around 6 p.m., officials said.

“Yeah, we’re like … we’re stuck in the sewers,” one of the boys told the 911 operator in audio released by the department.

A dispatcher familiar with the area helped pinpoint the opening where the boys entered by having them describe the area.

“Their jackets and school bags were at the opening so that was confirmation of where they started,” said Lt. John Drew, one of the rescuers.

Firefighters entered the tight space with rope and had to crawl at points in their search, officials said. Another team of firefighters followed the tunnel system on the street level and opened manholes to see if they could spot or hear the boys, who were told to yell for help.

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FDNY firefighter John Loennecker helped guide the lost children under the manhole.
FDNY firefighter John Loennecker helped guide the lost children under the manhole.

“The last drain I opened … is when I could hear them clearly,” firefighter John Loennecker said. “They said they were all OK. … I went down and I saw them about 40 feet down the tube. I crawled in. They met me halfway.”

Loennecker helped the children out of the tube and up and out of the manhole.

The boys had traveled 1,500 feet into the sewage system, officials said. After being stuck for an hour, they emerged with only one minor knee injury. They were taken to the hospital for evaluation.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five children stuck in NYC sewer systems rescued after calling 911