Children Rescued From Snowbank In Newburgh Speak Out

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two boys who had been trapped for hours under a huge pile of snow in Newburgh are speaking out about their ordeal.

The boys – cousins Jason “J.J.” Rivera, 9, and Elijah “Papito” Martinez, 11 — had been building a snow fort Wednesday night when a plow came along and pushed snow up against it, trapping them for nearly four hours.

The boys said Friday that they did everything they could to break free.

“I was punching everything, I was moving my shoulders, banging my head, moving everything so I could get more space,” Martinez said.

“He had more space than me, I couldn’t really move,” Rivera said. “If I could’ve sat up, I could’ve got my legs out and we could’ve at least made more space, but there was a big block of ice on my chest so I couldn’t move.”

Martinez said he tried breaking up the ice by punching it.

“It was about to fall and he said it was going to land on his face, so I stopped punching it,” Martinez said.

The boys said they tried to encourage each other while they were trapped.

“We motivated each other to not go to sleep, keep yelling, keep moving our bodies, trying to break out,” Martinez said. “Cause I knew if we would’ve fallen asleep…we probably wouldn’t have woke up because we would be so cold, frozen probably.”

The boys families reported them missing around 10 p.m. Wednesday night after they didn’t return home from playing outside, which launched a frantic search, CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.

Rivera said police officer Brandon Rola saw their shovel buried in the snow and started digging.

“I pulled the shovel out, and, not going to say I put two and two together, by no means, but I just felt led to dig,” he said.

Then one of Elijah’s boots appeared.

“When the boot moved it was just straight adrenaline to, ‘We’ve got to get these kids out as fast as possible,'” Rola said.

Dramatic cell phone video showed strangers and first responders frantically digging to save the two young boys.

“The cop saw our shovel got buried, he started digging twice and he hit my foot, and ‘I’m like Papito somebody hit my foot, so yell.’ We kept yelling, ‘Keep digging, keep digging. We’re in here.’ So he kept digging,” Rivera said.

Newburgh police Sgt. Aaron Weaver said the boys were buried in about five feet of snow.

“But how ever it fell, there was, like, a dome around their heads, so there was air in there, like space for them,” Weaver said.

And that’s what kept them alive, CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported.

Police said there’s no way the snow plow driver could have seen them, Rincon reported.

Witnesses said the police who pulled them out of the snowbank got a round of applause.

“They wouldn’t give up. They were sitting there out in the cold, and thank god they found them,” Aulix Martinez said.

The boys spent all of Thanksgiving recovering after being treated for hypothermia at Westchester Medical Center, where they remain at least one more night.

The boys also say they will not being building a snow fort again after the incident.

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