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Five children found after being lost while touring the NYC sewers

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Five kids who climbed into an uncovered storm drain on Staten Island have been rescued from the New York City sewers.

The five boys, who are all 11 or 12 years old, were located on Tuesday evening by FDNY firemen, rescue workers, and dispatchers working together.

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John Hodgens, the department chief for the FDNY, described the risky rescue as “a very successful operation” and applauded the professionalism of the firefighters.

‘We didn’t know exactly where they were, and it took awhile to figure out how to find them,’ Hodgens said.

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The storm drain the children entered (right) and the manhole they were eventually pulled out of (left)
The storm drain the children entered (right) and the manhole they were eventually pulled out of (left) (Picture: FDNY)

The chief continued: ‘They crawled in there, and they were in there crawling for at least 15 minutes before they became disoriented. Hodgens estimated that the kids had traveled at least 1300 feet through the sewers.

‘It’s amazing that the cell phone worked in the tunnel, and that was a key component of us finding them,’ Hodgens said. They were able to give us good information.’

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According to the chief, dispatchers worked with the children for about 30 minutes before they could pinpoint their exact location.

‘At 18.02 (6.02pm) I received a phone call about some kids in tunnel,’ Emergency Dispatcher Marlind Haxhialiu recalled at a press conference after the incident. ‘Having been raised in the area, I knew exactly where they were. We tried to calm them down as much as we could.’

Five children rescued after getting lost exploring NYC sewers (Picture: FDNY)
FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens addresses the media after the successful rescue on Staten Island (Picture: FDNY)

Days later, the FDNY released an audio recording of the children’s’ 911 call with Haxhialiu.

‘What’s the address on Staten Island?’ Haxhialiu asks the children.

‘We don’t know,’ one child responds.

‘You don’t know?’

‘We’re like… we’re stuck in the sewers.’

Meanwhile, Lt John Drew of FDNY Rescue 5 lead the search for the kids underground.

‘Confirming where the children were was a little difficult,’ Drew said. ‘We got to the mouth of tunnel, and their jackets and school bags were at the opening.’

After checking the atmosphere in the tunnels, Drew sent two firefighters into the sewer using a safety rope and wearing confined-space masks.

The storm drain’s opening only had a 40-inch diameter, and the tunnels inside later reduced to 30 inches wide.

Firefighter John Loennecker, of FDNY Ladder 79 in Staten Island, helped direct the rescue efforts above ground. The firefighter said his crew went manhole-to-manhole searching for signs of the missing kids.

‘As we got closer to Clove Road, we could hear their voices a little bit,’ Loennecker said. ‘We couldn’t make out what they were saying, but we knew they were in there.’

While the two teams were searching, Haxhialiu instructed the children to start yelling for help as the teams got closer. ‘I want all you guys to scream,’ the dispatcher said. ‘Call for help guys, they hear you.’

‘We meet at the hole, I went down, and I saw them about 40 feet down in the tube,’ Loennecker said. After the firefighters found the children, they were able to lift them out of a manhole using a ladder.

The children were then immediately brought to Richmond University Medical Center for medical evaluation. The children were uninjured, but one firefighter was treated for a minor injury.


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