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4 children survive more than 24 hours lost in Alaska blizzard

A car drives on a snowy road during a snowstorm. On each side of the road, there is a pine forest.
Photograph taken during winter 2019, near Montremblant, Quebec, Canada.
A car drives on a snowy road during a snowstorm. On each side of the road, there is a pine forest. Photograph taken during winter 2019, near Montremblant, Quebec, Canada. File/Getty Images

Four young boys went missing during an Alaska blizzard but were found alive on Monday thanks to their resourcefulness.

The children, aged two to 14, went on a snow-machine ride that afternoon near the remote village of Nunam Iqua, an Emmonak Search and Rescue spokesperson told CNN.

Officials were called after the group had been gone for an hour for what was supposed to have been a short ride.

“It became an hour and the weather started being bad, and that’s when we called for someone to go out and look,” Karen Camilla, mother of three of the four missing kids, told KTUU-TV.

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They were found in a hole they had dug themselves, huddled around the two-year-old so he wouldn’t be exposed to the elements, Alaska Public Media (APM) reports.

“It didn’t look like anything, and then as I got kinda closer, I seen movement,” first responder Bryan Simon told the publication.

The movement he saw was boys Christopher Johnson, 14, Frank Johnson, 8, Ethan Camille, 7, and two-year-old Trey Camille. They’d been missing, Alaska Public Media says, for over 24 hours.

“Right away, I look for that little infant. When I got kind of close to them, I thought I only seen one kid,” Simon continued. “The infant was in there and the boy laid over the infant, and on his left side, a little older boy covering the draft. The seven-year-old was laying right above them like he was blocking the wind.”

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“They were protecting the baby,” Simon’s rescue teammate, Herschel Sundown, added.

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Alphonso Thomas, Trey’s father, found out about the successful rescue from Camille.

“It immediately brought me to tears,” Thomas told KTUU. “I never would have thought that he would make it. Being two and with weather like that, people usually don’t make it … Tough kids, all of them.”

While the rescue team didn’t specify what the boys’ condition was at the time they found them, they said it wasn’t good. One boy was wearing sweatpants that had been soaked through, while another was missing gloves, Sundown said.

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The kids had been headed to a dump in the area when a blizzard hit, impairing their sense of direction, APM reported. According to weather.com, a nearby weather station reported temperatures ranging from -3 C to -9 C, and as low as -18 with windchill.

KTVA-TV reports that Christopher is at Providence Alaska Medical Center being treated for frostbite on his hands, while the other three are back home.

The four boys were very lucky to be found, given the rescue team moved through the area they were in multiple times without seeing them, Sundown told APM. The Coast Guard was called and a helicopter arrived within 15 minutes.

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“In all honesty, I don’t know how they survived,” he said.

“The will to survive in these boys is amazing. I have never seen anything like that.”

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca