5 boys rescued from NY sewer system after crawling through storm drain

Five boys who ventured inside a storm drain on New York’s Staten Island were rescued by firefighters on Wednesday, March 22, after calling 911 and telling the operator they were 'stuck in the sewers.'

Firefighters on Staten Island didn’t find the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the sewer system, but they did find five lost boys desperate for help.

The boys, whose names and ages are not publicly known, were rescued on Tuesday after they crawled through an open storm drain tunnel and got lost in the extensive sewer system, according to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Water levels were reportedly low enough that the boys could enter the storm drain without resistance.

Around 6 p.m., the boys, who had travelled underground for about 400 metres, called police to report their emergency situation. They had only one cellphone and were using it as a flashlight while in the sewer.

A split image. On the left is a firefighter descending into an open manhole. On the right nis an open storm drain.

Five boys were rescued after they became lost in the Staten Island sewer system on March 21, 2023.

Twitter / @FDNY

In audio of the 911 call shared by FDNY, an emergency dispatcher asked the boys for their location.

“We don’t know,” one boy replied. “We’re stuck in the sewers.”

“When I spoke to the kids, they were very frantic,” said fire alarm dispatcher Marlind Haxhialiu, who talked to the boys after they called 911. “I was asking them questions that would narrow down a specific location where they had entered the sewer system, based on my knowledge of that area.”

Shortly after making the 911 call, rescue personnel found the boys’ backpacks discarded at the entrance of the storm drain, said FDNY Deputy Chief Joe Harris. Rescue crews spoke to the boys on the phone and asked for directions left or right through the sewer system.

An open manhole.

As rescue crews searched for the five boys lost in Staten Island's sewer system, they opened several manholes to try and locate the children.

Twitter / @FDNY

Firefighters had to crawl through the narrow tunnels to reach the boys. They asked the boys to scream for help in the hopes they would be heard from underground.

After 30 minutes of searching, the boy’s cries were answered. Harris said four of the boys were found under a manhole on Clove Road. The final boy was discovered further down the line with an injured leg.

They were lost in the sewer system for about an hour.

The boys were transported to Richmond Medical Center for evaluation. Though they were wet and cold, they did not sustain any significant injuries. CNN reported one firefighter was minorly injured during the rescue.

“Amazing that the cellphone worked in the tunnel,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens told reporters during a press conference. “That was a key component of us finding them.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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