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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.”