(PARMA, Ohio) — A 14-year-old boy from Ohio says he is lucky to be alive after he was swallowed up by a sewer drain pipe and carried 1,500 feet by rising waters.
Jeff LaPorta suffered scrapes and bruises on his legs and received six stitches in his arm, but that only tells a part of his harrowing tale.
LaPorta was enjoying the last days of summer like any other kid, riding his bike with a friend in Parma, Ohio, on Tuesday during a heavy rain storm. He was riding through a parking lot when Mother Nature pulled a trick on him.
“There were big puddles and I was splashing through them and stuff having fun,” LaPorta recalled.
What LaPorta thought was a shallow puddle was actually a deep creek swollen with rain water. Within seconds, he fell into the creek and was carried away into a drain pipe.
“It was dark, it was scary, it was nasty,” LaPorta said. “It was like somebody is putting you in a big whirlpool and spinning you around and getting your head knocked on the ground.”
The rushing water sucked LaPorta into the pipe, and carried him 1,500 feet from the entrance. Along the way, the teen was gasping for air as the water rose over his head.
“…After I took that deep breath I just stayed, and I was not going to give up,” he said.
LaPorta’s friend, Miguel Torres, immediately flagged down help, unsure what just happened to his friend.
“I started thinking the worst,” recalled Torres.
The fire department arrived on the scene and searched manhole cover after manhole cover looking for LaPorta. After about 40 minutes of searching, the firefighters heard a scream. LaPorta was pulled out of a manhole cover across the street from a gas station parking lot.
“They lifted the manhole cover and I said, ‘Hey buddy, you alright down there?’” said Parma firefighter David Higginbotham. “And he was crying. He was terrified.”
Afraid he’d never make it out alive, LaPorta couldn’t believe the moment he saw the firefighters’ flashlight.
“In my head I’m like, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ I was praying,” said LaPorta. “I’m a little bruised up, but I’m lucky to be alive.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss and Steve Visser, CNN
Rene Marsh and David Gracey, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Jen Christensen, CNN