Jason “J.J.” Rivera & Elijah “Papito” Martinez: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Jason J.J. Jay Jay Rivera, Elijah Papito Martinez, Children Rescued Snow

(Youtube/CBS)

In 2013, cousins Jason Rivera and Elija Martinez were playing in a fort they built when a snow plow driver accidentally dumped piles of snow on top of them. The boys, 9 and 11 at the time, tried to scream for help, but were muted by the feet of snow they were buried under. Rivera and Martinez were stuck under at least five feet of snow for at least four hours before police were able to rescue them.

Tonight, In An Instant will focus on these boys’ story of survival, bravery, and gratefulness.


1. The Boys Were Trapped for At Least 4 Hours

Children Rescued From Snowbank In Newburgh Two boys who had been trapped for hours under a huge pile of snow in Newburgh spent Thanksgiving at the hospital. CBS2's Sonia Rincon reports.2014-11-28T17:54:15.000Z

The boys didn’t return home from playing around 10pm, and after an unsuccessful search, their parents called police at 11:50pm the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until 2 am the following morning that Martinez and Rivera were located.

NY boys buried in snow pile heard rescuers callingNEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Two boys trapped in a snow pile for about seven hours after a plow buried them could hear their worried family's cries but couldn't respond loudly enough to be heard, they said Friday. Police credited an air pocket with saving their lives. The two cousins, 11-year-old Elijah Martinez and 9-year-old Jason Rivera, were building a snow fort Wednesday night across the street from Elijah's apartment in Newburgh when a plow operator clearing a parking lot unknowingly pushed snow over them. Buried in about 5 feet of snow, they could barely move and couldn't breathe very well, so they could do nothing as they heard the anguished cries nearby. Jason lost his gloves. His hat flew off. They relied on each other to stay alive, they said, sharing Elijah's face mask to try and keep their hands warm and talking to each other so they wouldn't fall asleep. "I felt so tired. It didn't feel real that they were coming to get us," Elijah said at a news conference at the hospital where the boys were recovering. Meanwhile, their parents were growing more frantic, calling police and searching through the snowy streets for the children who were mere feet from the apartment. "I just kept telling myself: `This is not true. This is not real,'" said Jason's mom, Aulix Martinez. "It was just scary, and as time went on, it got scarier. I was begging the police to please find them." Neighbor Takiaya Stevens told The Associated Press that police rallied help for the search. "The cops were coming to all the neighbors' houses. They were knocking on doors. They were ringing bells asking for shovels, asking for help," she said. "The neighbors came out. Everyone tried to join in the search for the little boys." At about 2 a.m., Officer Brandon Rola spotted footprints that were disappearing as more snow fell. Then he saw a shovel. "I felt led to dig," he said. Rescuers saw the sole of a child's boot and then motion, digging faster as residents joined in the rescue, some with their bare hands in the pile of packed, wet snow. "When I first hit the boot, you just try and stay positive and hopeful," Rola said. "You get that ray of hope and everybody just started working together trying to get these kids out. And as the snow kept coming come off, you started to see more and more movement and then you started to hear the voices and it was a very great feeling." Rola said seeing the look of joy and hope in the boys' faces was a terrific feeling. The boys were conscious but suffering from exposure. "I felt so happy," Elijah said. "Everything we went through just fell right off my back." "I'm just glad they got that big block off my chest, that was heavy," Jason said. They were very thankful for the officer who found them. "I want him to be proud for what he did. I want him to have a good Thanksgiving, because he's a hero," Elijah said. The cousins appeared healthy Friday2014-12-08T15:27:28.000Z

The video above was taken from a neighbor’s cell phone, and shows footage of police and other members of the community digging for the boys immediately after they were located.


2. Police Estimate They Were Buried in At Least Five Feet of Snow

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(ABCNews/Twitter)

Newburgh police Sgt. Aaron Weaver suspects the boys were buried in as much as five feet of snow after a snow plow operator who was busy clearing a parking lot unwittingly dumped a large pile on them. Officer Rola, meanwhile, estimates that the pile of snow was anywhere from 7 to 8 feet.

According to Broadway World, the boys had just enough oxygen to breathe and just enough warmth to remain conscious. They spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, but escaped the ordeal unharmed.


3. Officer Rola Found and Saved the Boys

Jason J.J. Jay Jay Rivera, Elijah Papito Martinez, Children Rescued Snow

(Youtube/CBS)

Policeman Officer Rola was the man who found the boys’ shovel and immediately started digging. Speaking to CBS Local, Rola said, “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.”

Rola then saw Elija’s boot and moved as quickly as possible to rescue them. “When the boot moved it was just straight adrenaline to, ‘We’ve got to get these kids out as fast as possible,’” Rola said.  A neighbor who helped with the digging told USA Today, “All I see was the feet… When I got over there, the little boy’s feet was hanging out of the thing, and he was shaking, and his mother was like, ‘It’s all right.’ He was like, ‘Mommy, mommy.'”

Rola initially identified the boys whereabouts speaking to a young girl who was playing with them earlier that afternoon. He used her tip to approximate their location, and subsequently spend his time searching for any kind of identifier.


4. The Boys Said They Did Everything They Could to Free Themselves

NY boys rescued from snow aided by air pockeNEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — New York police believe two boys trapped in a snow pile in the Hudson Valley for several hours after a plow buried them were able to survive thanks to an air pocket in the heavy, wet snow. The two cousins — aged 11 and 9 — were building a snow fort Wednesday night in Newburgh when a plow operator clearing a parking lot unknowingly pushed snow over them. A search was called that night after the boys' parents became alarmed. The boys were found conscious and suffering from exposure after an officer spotted a small boot in the snow. Newburgh police said Friday that the heavy snow made it hard for the boys to move, but they believe there was an air bubble in the snow pile that allowed them to breathe.2014-12-26T22:10:08.000Z

Speaking to the press after the incident, Martinez explained that he did whatever he could to free him and his cousin. “I was punching everything, I was moving my shoulders, banging my head, moving everything so I could get more space,” he said.

Rivera, on the other hand, was packed in tightly with the snow, and had little room for movement. “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.”


5. The Boys Say They Motivated One Another Not to Fall Asleep

Children Rescued From Snowbank In Newburgh Speak OutTwo boys who had been trapped for hours under a huge pile of snow in Newburgh are speaking out about their ordeal. CBS2's Sonia Rincon reports.2014-11-29T02:32:18.000Z

In their interview with the press, the boys say they helped one another stay awake, and motivated each other to keep fighting to be rescued. “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.”