Teen stuck in storm drain; refused rescue

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Residents of a northwest Phoenix neighborhood were startled when they heard the voice of a teenage boy coming from a storm drain in the street.

Police say this weekend, a 16-year-old boy had made his way into a storm drain near 48th Street and Union Hills. Investigators believe the teen, who is said to be a runaway, entered the labyrinth of tunnels somewhere in the surrounding neighborhood, but then got lost.

Police say the young man had been communicating with residents in the neighborhood through a curbside opening in the drain, telling them that he was in trouble, and asking for tools because he was stuck. But he also kept telling them that he did not want anyone to call the police.

"He was requesting that they not call the authorities, whether it was the police department or the fire department," says Phoenix Fire Captain Ruben Saavedra. "He didn't want that. We're not sure if that was because he was scared he was going to get in trouble."

Emergency crews from several departments showed up at the scene and began setting up to do a confined space rescue. But by then, the teen had vanished, and rescuers couldn't locate him.

However, a short time later, the boy surfaced, and was spotted outside of the tunnels and walking along the street.

"There were indications that he did have some blood on him," says Saavedra. "He was a little dirty, possibly from being underground in a sewer drain."

The teen was taken to the hospital and checked out, and is expected to be okay. His family has been notified.

"He must have been pretty desperate to hide in a storm drain," remarked one area resident.

Fire officials say the teen faced some real hazards down beneath the street. "The danger is down there," says Phoenix Fire Captain Jonathan Jacobs. "It's very dark. You could run into some gases that can be toxic to you. You could really get yourself in a tight spot and become a statistic down there."