Boys Rescued From Snow Pile: 'I Was Thinking Me And My Cousin Were Gonna Die'

Anne Kennedy

After a seven-hour ordeal, two New York boys rescued from a snow pile feel fortunate to be alive. The cousins, 9-year-old Jason Rivera and 11-year-old Elijah Martinez, were happily building a snow fort Wednesday night when a snowplow operator working to clear the parking lot accidentally pushed snow over them.

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During the hours spent under the heavy mountain of snow, the boys could hear their families calling for them. Covered in about five feet of freezing ice and snow, the cousins were barely able to move and couldn't breathe well. They weren't able to yell loudly enough for anyone to hear them, and in an interview with CBS New York, they said weren't sure they would be rescued.

Police said that an air pocket in the snow pile kept the boys alive long enough to be rescued. While they were waiting for help, they relied on one another to stay alive. Because Jason's hat and gloves were lost in the accident, the boys shared Elijah's face mask, using it to keep their hands warm. They talked and told stories to one another to stay awake while waiting for help to arrive.

"I felt so tired. It didn't feel real that they were coming to get us."

The boys' parents, not knowing what had happened, were frantically searching through the neighborhood, not knowing that their sons were waiting to be rescued mere feet from their own front door.

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A neighbor, Takiaya Stevens, told the Associated Press that Newburgh police went door to door asking for help with the search for the missing boys.

"The cops were coming to all the neighbors' houses. They were knocking on doors. They were ringing bells asking for shovels, asking for help. The neighbors came out. Everyone tried to join in the search for the little boys."

The boys were rescued after Officer Brandon Rola noticed a set of footprints that were disappearing as even more snow fell from the sky. When he saw a shovel, he said he felt led to dig.

Volunteers first saw the sole of a boy's boot, and then saw movement. Everyone joined in, many digging with bare hands to free the youngsters from the mountain of wet, packed snow.

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Officer Rola said he and everyone at the scene was elated when the boys were finally rescued.

"When I first hit the boot, you just try and stay positive and hopeful. You get that ray of hope and everybody just started working together trying to get these kids out. And as the snow kept coming off, you started to see more movement and then you started to hear the voices and it was a very great feeling."

As for the kids, they were suffering from exposure but were conscious. Transported to the hospital for care after being rescued, the boys had food and a trip to Disney World on their minds. They were also very thankful for the help they received from Officer Rola.

Rola said that it was terrific to see the look of joy and hope on the faces of the boys rescued.

[Image courtesy of NBC New York]