Man rescued from manhole after claiming he was trapped for 9 days

HOUSTON, Texas -- A man said he spent over a full week trapped in a manhole before finally being rescued Monday morning.

It happened under the beltway near the Southwest Freeway.

The firefighter who went down into the hole to rescue the man says he was all smiles when he was pulled to safety.

Construction workers captured a picture of the 40-year-old man trapped in the manhole when they found him.

Rescuers say despite what he'd been through, his spirits were high.

"He was in good mental health for the amount of time he said he was down there. He was laughing and joking," said Jason Abeldano, Houston Fire Department.

Abeldano was lowered into the hole to help bring the victim to safety.

Thanks to the rescuers, Jason Courtney is alive. Construction workers heard his cries for help and called 911.

He spoke from his hospital bed Monday, and said he wants to thank the men who followed his cries and saved his life.

The 40-year-old said when he was down in the manhole for nine days, he ate a snake and bugs to stay alive.
Eyewitness News showed the interview with Courtney to the man who made the discovery.

"I'm happy. I'm happy to help somebody, but last night believe it or not, it scared me," said Elmer Espinosa. "Why? Because we heard somebody looking for help, you know, and everybody heard someone needs help, but we could not find nobody."

Espinosa says crews even searched the top of the beltway before he finally looked through the grass and found the open manhole.

Abeldano said Courtney seemed thin and injured his ankle when he fell into the hole.
"That was his main complaint. He said, 'What am I going to do with my leg on the way up?' And I was like, 'You are just going to have to hold it until you get up. It's only going to take a few seconds," Abeldano said.

Courtney said he'd been trapped for nine nights.

The City of Houston sent a crew out to look at the now barricaded hole.

Firefighters are just happy this rescue ended with a smile.
"He was just saying, 'Thank you, thank you.' That's all I could hear from you know, standing on the bottom looking up top," Abeldano said.

The man's injuries are not severe.

The hole is about 10 feet deep.

Officials said it will be covered properly by the end of the day.
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