"First, we were trying to find a way home and we got cold," said one 8-year-old survivor
Just days after four children who went missing in an Alaskan blizzard were found, one of the boys is sharing how they managed to survive.
Ethan Camille, 8, was being treated for frostbite on his hands on Friday when KTVA spoke with the young survivor and his mother, Irene Camille.
“I don’t ever want anybody to go through what I did,” he told the outlet.
Ethan and three of his cousins — Christopher Johnson, 14, Frank Johnson, 8, and Trey Camille, 2 — went missing on Sunday, Feb. 2, while on a “snowmachine ride” near their home of Nunam Iqua, Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The group was found the next afternoon, about 18 miles from Nunam Iqua (a village with an estimated population of less than 200 people), and quickly transported to a nearby hospital where they could be treated for “severe hypothermia.”
“First, we were trying to find a way home, and we got cold,” Ethan told KTVA from his hospital room last week. “We were trying to dig a hole, and we sleeped there.”
Irene said the three older boys put themselves at risk in order to protect Trey, braving the elements while lost that night in order to shield the toddler.
“It’s all they thought about was the baby — to protect the baby till the end,” she said. “They sacrificed their health, their everything, to make sure the baby would make it.”
Added Irene: “Chris wanted to hold Gus Gus in the hole, and so they made room for him to go in the hole. … [Ethan] moved into the doorway. That’s why he’s got all the frostbite, to help protect from the cold.”
After recovering the boys last week, a representative from Emmonak Search and Rescue told CNN that the kids likely lost their “sense of direction” amid the blizzard conditions.
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The Sunday the boys disappeared, Alaska State Troopers had received a report that the four had not returned home from a “snowmachine ride” near their village that day. Officials said “reduced visibility” from the snowstorm at first “hampered” search efforts, which saw assists from the Army National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Alphonso Thomas, Trey’s father, told KTUU that the successful rescue “immediately brought me to tears.”
“I never would have thought that he would make it,” he said. “Being 2 and with weather like that, people usually don’t make it. … Tough kids, all of them.”