NEW YORK CITY — Authorities rescued five kids Tuesday night after they crawled into a storm train tunnel and got lost in the sewer system in Staten Island, according to the New York City Fire Department.
FDNY Deputy Chief Joe Harris said the water level was low at the time the kids went into the tunnel, “so they were able to go right in.” The boys were 11 and 12 years old, WPIX reported.
Around 6 p.m. Tuesday, dispatchers got a call from one of the boys, who said that he didn’t know where he was.
“You don’t know?” fire alarm dispatcher Moises Arias can be heard asking in a call released Wednesday.
“Yeah we’re like — we’re stuck in the sewers,” the boy says.
Yesterday, #FDNY Dispatchers, Firefighters, EMS and our @NYPDnews partners worked quickly to rescue five children who became lost in a Staten Island sewer system. pic.twitter.com/KiVx3jB1EY— FDNY (@FDNY) March 22, 2023
Fire alarm dispatcher Marlind Haxhialiu said that the kids “were very frantic.” He grew up in the area and was able to narrow down the kids’ location by describing landmarks. He shared the details with crews on the ground, who found the kids’ backpacks outside an entrance to the tunnel.
Two rescuers went into the storm drain — which had a 40-inch opening that narrowed down to about 30 inches — while a team on the surface followed the path of the tunnel and opened up manholes. As Arias and Haxhialiu encouraged the kids to shout for rescuers, firefighter John Loennecker said crews on the ground heard their voices. When he opened about the 10th manhole since the start of the search, he said he could hear them clearly.
“I went down and I saw them about 40 feet down in the tube,” he said Wednesday at a news conference. “They were very nervous. They were in this tube for maybe an hour, and they were more relieved, I think, to know that they were out.”
#FDNY officials provide an update on the rescue of five children from a sewer system on Staten Island. Read more: https://t.co/Aokc8ZRwnd pic.twitter.com/AVKD0ccpiw— FDNY (@FDNY) March 22, 2023
Harris said the kids had traveled about a quarter of a mile and that one had an injured leg while the other four were fine. They were taken to a hospital for evaluation along with a firefighter, who was injured in the rescue.
Loennecker said the kid’s injury was minor.
“They were crawling on their knees for over an hour, or about an hour, so his knees were hurting,” he said. “It was dark down there. They had one cellphone light and that was it.”
Officials said it took just over 30 minutes to find and rescue the boys after they called for help. Chief of Department John Hodgens said it was “amazing that the cellphone worked in the tunnel.”
“That was a key component to us finding them,” he said. “They were able to give us good information.”