Exclusive: Bluffdale teen tells story of survival in below-freezing temps in Ogden marshes

Posted at 8:33 PM, Dec 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-29 10:35:47-05

BLUFFDALE, Utah --"I was just seeing black sometimes, I was just seeing black and just zoning out and felt like I didn't have longer to make it."

Memories are coming back in flashbacks for Brayden Neilson, a 14-year-old from Bluffdale who survived a night lost in the Ogden Wildlife Management Area over the weekend.

"I feel like I had 10 more minutes, if I was lucky, to survive. I just felt like my body was shutting down," the teen said.

Brayden said he was duck hunting with a friend. They got separated and Brayden tried to find his way back to a meeting spot.

Over time, he said, the cold started taking a toll.

"I started to see people, like, everyone was in like Halloween masks just sitting there by the bush and I walk towards them and it was a tree," Brayden said.

He said the hallucinations got so bad, every bush and every tree seemed to be something sinister.

He called home several times. Each call sounded more and more confused. But his cell phone was a lifeline as search and rescue crews used it to get his coordinates.

"Brayden's phone died," said the teen’s mom Shannon Neilson.

When his phone died, Neilson said, she was driving from their home in Bluffdale to the search area, confident her son would be found before she arrived.

But hours passed, with her darkest moment coming early in the morning.

"About 3:30 or 4 in the morning, when there was no sign of Brayden and they had found his sled and found parts of his clothing," Neilson said. "Maybe my son was, had laid down and went to sleep and maybe he was never going to wake up again."

During Neilson’s darkest moment of worry, Brayden was struggling.

"I got to the point to where I was walking and I'm so tired that I laid down, I took off one of my coats, set it down took my shotgun down and took a nap," Brayden said.

He doesn’t know how long he slept, but said he woke up, ditched his shotgun and started walking again until spotting a truck in the distance.

"I just saw those headlights and I started running at those headlights," Brayden said.

Brayden’s memories after his rescue are broken. He remembers trying to hold a cup of coffee and shaking so hard, he spilled it all.  He remembers his mom climbing into the ambulance with him. He remembers waking up in the hospital.

But his mother will never forget the moment she first saw her son after that long, cold night.

"It was like giving birth all over again, I'll tell you that.  It was the most joyous reunion, I couldn't even tell you," Neilson said.

She said her son is expected to make a full recovery.

Brayden, his mother, father and brother are all thanking the Weber and Davis County Sheriff’s Department, the dispatchers and the Search and Rescue teams that helped bring Brayden home safe.