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Freezing family in blizzard rescue

A family pulled from a vehicle that had been buried in a snowdrift for nearly two days said they feared they would not make it out alive.

State police said rescuers had to dig through 4ft of ice and snow to free the Higgins family, whose red GMC Yukon got stuck on the rural highway in New Mexico when a blizzard moved through the area on Monday.

Rescuers found David and Yvonne Higgins, from Texas, and their five-year-old daughter Hannah clinging to each other and lethargic early yesterday morning. The family is recovering at Miners Colfax Medical Centre in Raton.

Mr Higgins, 48, said he and his wife both had pneumonia but his daughter was fine. He said he was glad to be able to talk about his ordeal because he had feared that he and his family might not be found.

"By nine or 10 Monday night, I realised there was solid snow outside my window. I tried to shove my arm through the top of the window. I thought, 'It can't be that deep'," he said. "I pushed as hard as I could. My arm went about 16 inches and there was still snow."

The family, who had left their home on Sunday for a ski trip, started to hit bad weather soon after they crossed into New Mexico. They followed a snow plough for a while, but visibility dropped to zero.

It was getting so bad that Mr Higgens had slowed to about 5mph. But despite having snow tyres, the blizzard stopped the family in its tracks. Mr Higgins tried backing up and then driving forward again and made some progress, but then the SUV's back end slipped around and the vehicle started to slide down an embankment. He was able to keep the car running for a couple of hours, but when he went to get out to clear the exhaust pipe, his door was blocked.

Early on, the family could hear vehicles passing, so they tried honking the horn, but to no avail. The family had ski gear, plenty of water, sandwiches, and snacks, but as the hours passed, it seemed they were working harder to breathe inside the buried SUV.

State police received a distress call and launched a search for the family on Tuesday evening. It was unclear where the call came from. The National Guard was called out along with state transportation workers.

Mr Higgins said rescuers had to break the window to get to him and his family.

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