A Newburgh, New York, family avoided a truly terrible Thanksgiving on Wednesday night when two of their children were rescued after being buried under a huge snow pile.
A pair of cousins — 11-year-old Elijah Martinez and 9-year-old Jason Rivera — were in the middle of building a fort when a plow inadvertently dumped at least five feet of snow onto the boys. “We started screaming and telling him to stop, but he didn’t hear us,” Elijah told CNN. As a police sergeant explained, “However it fell, there was, like, a dome around their heads, so there was air in there, like space for them.”
“I was thinking that me and my cousin, we’re going to die,” said Jason. The two spent the next several hours working to stay alive. “We motivated each other to not go to sleep, keep yelling, keep moving our bodies. Because I knew if we would’ve fallen asleep, we probably wouldn’t have woke up because we would be so cold, frozen probably,” recalled Elijah.
When the cousins failed to come home, their relatives began searching the area. A couple of hours later, they called the police:
Newburgh police officer Brandon Rola approached one snowbank among several in the area and discovered a half-buried shovel that was “kind of sticking out of the pile,” he said.
“I pulled the shovel out, and I definitely didn’t put it together then but just kind of decided to start digging,” Rola said on CNN’s “The Lead” on Friday.
He said that even though he turned up nothing after four or five shovels full of snow, he kept digging into the 8-foot-tall pile.
“I just felt led to dig,” he said.
Eventually, Roja came upon a kid’s boot. “When the boot moved it was just straight adrenaline to, ‘We’ve got to get these kids out as fast as possible,’” he told CBS 2. With the help of EMTs and nearby people who just happened to have shovels, Roja and his colleagues managed to locate and free Elijah and Jason at around 2 a.m.
The children were taken to the hospital to be treated for exposure to the cold, but they’re expected to be fine.