HOUSTON (AP) - The Higgins family is spending Christmas at a Colorado hospital rather than being on a ski vacation, but the Texans are just thankful to be alive.
Days after being rescued from their snow-covered SUV in New Mexico, the only family member still in the hospital is Yvonne Higgins, who is expected to fully recover from the bout of pneumonia she caught while struggling to stay alive in frigid conditions for nearly two days, her husband, David Higgins told the Houston Chronicle.
David Higgins was released from a New Mexico hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia. The couple's 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, was given a clean bill of health hours after the family was rescued at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Yvonne Higgins was transferred to a hospital in Pueblo, Colo.
"We say 'God bless you and thank you' to the New Mexico state troopers, the police department and the New Mexico National Guard," David Higgins said. "We were completely entombed in ice."
The family's ordeal began Monday when they left Texas for a vacation in New Mexico. Within hours, they got stuck in a large blizzard on U.S. Highway 412, just west of the Texas border, and could no longer drive. Their vehicle became buried under four feet of snow.
Due to cloud cover, the Higginses had spotty cell phone coverage - unusual, they later found out, in the area where they were stranded. This allowed them to give responders enough clues to find their general location. Using probes, the rescuers began searching in a snowbank and after a few tries, hit the car.
"We were pretty much out of oxygen and it had started to get cold in there," David Higgins said.
Now, the family is together in Colorado, with Higgins' parents, Jim and Betty Higgins, who have come to spend Christmas with them.
Santa, though, won't be visiting until they return home to League City, Texas, a town about 25 miles southeast of Houston.
"We've already explained to Hannah that Santa understands the situation," David Higgins said. "When we get home, we'll have our big Christmas."