Five mischievous boys had to be rescued from a Staten Island sewer system on Tuesday after crawling through a tunnel, venturing deep inside and then getting lost, according to the New York Fire Department.
The FDNY received an emergency call around 6 p.m. Tuesday about children being trapped in the sewers, department chief John Hodgens said at a press conference Wednesday.
Edited 911 audio released by the FDNY captures some of the exchanges between a dispatcher and a child. In an exchange, the dispatcher asked for an address.
“We don’t know,” replied a childish voice.
” You do not know ? said the dispatcher.
“We’re like…we’re stuck in the sewers,” the child said.
“Where are you stuck? asked the dispatcher.
“In the sewers,” said the child.
Fire alarm dispatcher Marlind Haxhialiu said he asked the child questions to determine where the boys entered the sewer system, according to the FDNY. The intervention firefighters located the children’s backpacks at the entrance to the the tunnel, which leads to the sewers under Clove Lakes Park.
Authorities determined the children had crawled into the sewer system through the tunnel and 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 was later reduced to about 30 inches, making it difficult to navigate.
A firefighter entered the tunnel with a rope and a breathing apparatus, FDNY Deputy Chief Joe Harris said.
“It was a tight space. The member had to squat and then crawl,” he said.
The dispatcher also asked one of the boys to guide them in the direction. “Once you got down, the sewers – left, right, right – where were they? I need you to guide me,” the dispatcher asked.
“Good,” replied the child.
” On the right side. How long have you been walking?” said the dispatcher.
“We like…yes, we walked a lot,” he replied.
From there, the firefighters traveled the path of the sewers to find the children.
“We walked along the route that we knew the sewer was taking and opened manhole covers looking for the children,” Hodgens said.
Firefighters found the children by opening one of the manhole covers above them, and the dispatcher urged the children to raise their voices and call for help. Moments after that, the FDNY said, response units located and rescued the children.
The boys were brought to safety approximately 30 minutes after emergency personnel intervened. 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 pulled out of the cold, damp and dark tunnel.
“They crawled on their knees for about an hour,” he said. “It was dark there. They had a cell phone light, and that was it.
All five children were transported to Richmond Medical Center for evaluation. A firefighter was slightly injured during the rescue.
“I am happy that everyone was able to work together to save these five children,” Haxhialiu said.