An 11-year-old Michigan boy who survived being buried alive for nearly 30 minutes under a sand hill says it was thoughts of his family that carried him through.
Nicholas Nelson was digging in a sandpit with his older brother, Kyle, outside their home in Saranac, Mich., about 25 miles from Grand Rapids, on Sunday afternoon when one of the tunnels he was digging collapsed on him, according to Ionia County authorities.
The frantic 911 call made by 16-year-old Kyle as his brother was buried underneath nearly a foot of sand captures the life-and-death situation that followed.
"Me and my brother were digging in a sandpit and it collapsed and my brother is stuck under there now," Kyle said to the dispatcher. "I tried to get him out, but I couldn't dig fast enough."
Kyle was soon aided by the brothers' mother, Aimee Nelson, and her boyfriend in feverishly trying to dig Nicholas out from beneath the sand.
"I didn't know where he was because the sand pushed him down," Nelson told ABC News.
Under the sand, Nicholas settled into a seated position and began "saying goodbye in his head," he recalled, to his family members above. The 11-year-old was able to get a small air pocket around his mouth and it was those few inches of air, rescuers say, that kept Nicholas from suffocating.
"After like a minute I passed out, but I was lucky there was a gap by me," he said. "It was really scary."
When Ionia County firefighters arrived they too began using their hands and shovels to dig, finding first Nicholas' hand and then his body.
"When they pulled him out, he wasn't breathing," Nelson said. "They gave him a few breaths by mouth, they used the bag and he fought back on his own."
Nicholas was rushed to a nearby children's hospital where he was treated and kept overnight for evaluation before being released Monday.
"I think someone was down there with me to create the gap and make sure I didn't go," Nicholas said.