11-year-old buried alive for half-hour, survives

By Lindsay Dewitte, NBC News | Posted - Mar. 14, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.



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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Nicholas Nelson and his brother Kyle were doing something they had done many times before: digging tunnels in a sand pit near their house.

But last Sunday was different.

At about 3 p.m., one of the tunnels collapsed with 11-year-old Nicholas inside.

"It all collapsed on me, and I started yelling and he started digging," said Nicholas. "And then he stopped 'cause he knew he wouldn't be able to get there in time, so he ran for help."

It's not the first time Kyle, 16, has had to react quickly to help Nicholas.

"That's the second time he saved my life," said Nicholas.

A few years ago, Nicholas fell through the ice. Kyle was there then, too.

The weight of the sand pressing down on Nicholas was the danger on Sunday. Nicholas easily could have suffocated.

"Kyle's quick thinking -- when he realized he couldn't help and he came up here and got myself and my boyfriend -- his quick thinking saved Nicholas," said the brothers' mother Aimee Nelson.

Nicholas said he remembers only a little of being trapped under the sand for what his mother said was nearly a half-hour.

"I didn't think I was gonna make it, so I started saying 'bye to people, and then I passed out," said Nicholas. "Luckily, I had a little gap though to breath, or else I would've been gone."

Nicholas was unconscious when firefighters finally dug him free of the sand. He remembers being in an ambulance.

"They drove me up to the helicopter. And that was kind of fun, riding in the helicopter," said Nicholas.

Nicholas thanked everyone who helped save him. He said his arms are a little sore, but otherwise, he's okay.

"He's a very, very lucky little boy," said his mother Aimee.

"They said that no normal person would have survived that, so I know I'm really, really lucky," said Nicholas.

From now on, Nicholas said, he isn't going to be digging any tunnels. He suggests no one else does, either.

"Unless you have a degree in digging or you're a professional," said Nicholas.

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