Couple buried alive for 20 hours

Betty and Jimmy Anderson were trapped for almost 20 hours. (Courtesy photo)

Betty and Jimmy Anderson were trapped for almost 20 hours. (Courtesy photo)

By David Stevens

CMI Editor

dstevens@pntonline.com

They huddled together under a blanket in the front seat of their white Ford Fusion, imprisoned by a 12-foot snowdrift.

Rescue workers knew they were about 2 miles southeast of Clovis on Curry Road 6, but it wasn’t exactly clear which snow drift they were buried under. They couldn’t get there anyway because of white-out conditions.

For 20 hours, Jimmy and Betty Anderson sat in darkness, hoping their cell phone would stay charged so they could at least communicate with emergency responders, and they prayed, hoping someone would find them.

“We didn’t sleep much,” Jimmy said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up.”

About 4 p.m. on Sunday, they heard snow crunching and realized help was nearby.

“I started banging on the ceiling and window and honking the horn,” Jimmy said. “They heard me banging.”

Two men, Clovis Assistant Public Works Director Bill Kshir and Ty Gonser, who works for Ray Lee Equipment, cleared the snow away, kicked in the front window, and dragged the Andersons to safety.

“They’d seen a strange snow formation,” Jimmy said. “That’s how they knew it was us. They would never have found us if not for that. It was an act of God.”

Betty Anderson, 55, was hospitalized with chest pains but said she expected to be released from Plains Regional Medical Center on Monday afternoon. Jimmy, 54, said he was not injured. “No frost bite, no carbon monoxide poisoning. I thought some body parts might shut down because it was so cold, but we’re OK,” he said.

Their ordeal began about 8 p.m. Saturday when they started their newspaper delivery route for the Clovis News Journal. Cindy Cole, the newspaper’s circulation director, had told carriers to use their judgment about whether it was safe, the Andersons said.

“They said try if you think you can, or just wait till later and see how it goes,” Betty said. “It wasn’t that bad when we first started.”

The Andersons have two paper routes, one in the city limits, one in the county. Jimmy decided to deliver the county route first. They delivered five newspapers before deciding to head home.

“Just of all of a sudden, I could not see 2 feet in front of me,” said Jimmy, who was driving. “The wind was blowing so hard and there was like a dirt devil, only it was snow.”

The next thing they knew, they were in a ditch. “I learned to drive in Boston,” Jimmy said. “So I know snow. And that was the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Jimmy exited the vehicle, found he was ankle deep in a drift on the road, and decided to call for help rather than walk an estimated 2 miles for assistance.

Meteorologists said winds whipped the snow with sustained speeds of 30 and 40 mph on Saturday night. Gusts were as high as 67 mph. In what seemed like no time at all, the Andersons’ car was surrounded by snow and they were trapped.

Betty Anderson used her cell phone to send out messages on Facebook. Jimmy talked regularly with Lt. Roger Dial of the Clovis Police Department who tried to send help.

“Every hour I would call,” Jimmy said. “It got to where I think I was giving him hope, letting him know we were still here, we were still alive.”

Rescue workers at one point were able to break out the car’s back glass but were unable to free the couple. Additional rescue vehicles kept sliding off the road. Not even the city’s Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected all-terrain vehicle it received from the military was able to get the job done. It sustained a broken drive shaft trying to reach the Andersons.

Jimmy Anderson said the ultimate hero was a John Deere tractor, loaned by the dealership, which brought the men to the snowdrift that contained the Andersons.

“We owe a lot of people a debt of gratitude,” Jimmy Anderson said. “People were coming from all over trying to help us.”

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