Dickinson family rescued in NM recalls ordeal

January 4, 2012 8:34:30 PM PST
Wednesday's temperatures in the 70's were a welcome change to one Dickinson family.

Just two weeks ago, the family of three was trapped in their car under four feet of snow and ice on a remote New Mexico highway with no idea if they would ever be rescued. Now they are home and sharing with us what that two-day ordeal was like.

The Higgins called 911 almost immediately just to let authorities know they were out there and stuck. They were fully prepared to wait it out but this was not that kind of snowstorm.

Yvonne and David Higgins make it a point, especially when traveling, to always be prepared.

"We prepare months in advance," David said.

But nothing could have prepared them for this.

"You think to yourself, what have I done?" he said.

The couple and their five-year-old daughter Hannah are finally back home trying to get back to normal.

"Part of my healing is talking about it," David said.

Now they're sharing what they've learned as survivors.

"We are not in control -- at all -- and I never knew that before," Yvonne said.

The Higgins were heading to new Mexico for a pre-Christmas ski trip at Angle Fire when, on December 18, they got caught in a paralyzing blizzard.

"It just became whiteout," David said.

They would spend the next 38 hours buried in snow, wondering if they'd make it out.

"It was one of those things you didn't want to openly admit. Inside, you have your thoughts, she had her thoughts," David said.

The family was well stocked with supplies. They survived on sandwiches and bottled water, cleared the muffler and ran the engine until they no longer could, and kept Hannah bundled in ski gear. They were eventually trapped under four feet of snow, entombed and running out of air.

"Just like slight bit of movement, it was like you had just run a marathon," David said.

The snow was so deep it took search crews two passes before they finally found the family.

"All I remember is hearing Yvonne yell, 'David the rescuers are here'" David said.

Hannah was dehydrated, David had pneumonia and Yvonne was a little worse off. She spent seven days in the hospital, which means they missed Christmas at home; so this year, the decorations are staying up a little longer.

David has quite a story behind the dents and scrapes on his SUV and some day they hope to pay it forward, so to speak.

"By helping someone else who was in a bad situation like we were," Yvonne said.

Because not a day has passed since their ordeal that they have taken for granted.

"You still thank God everyday for what you do have because it could have easily been a different story," David said.

The Higgins stayed clam for their daughter. Hannah, by the way, thinks of it as an adventure. They plan to reschedule their annual ski trip for spring and might fly instead.