As he spent hour after hour trapped in dirt at the bottom of a more than 20-foot hole, Mario Flores found comfort in thinking of a special person.
"My mother is dead five years," Flores said Wednesday from his hospital bed at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. "I thought, maybe she is my angel."
Flores, 37, of Brentwood, was working at an East Hills home Tuesday excavating a hole for a cesspool when he became trapped by falling dirt. It was not clear Wednesday how he ended up in the hole, and he did not recall, but officials are investigating.
He remained trapped for nearly five hours until rescuers were able to dig him out, bracing wooden planks against the sandy, crumbling dirt around him.
Flores was airlifted to NUMC for treatment for exposure, and was admitted in satisfactory and stable condition, police said. Hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said Flores is expected to be discharged Thursday.
"I can't remember a lot about yesterday," Flores said of the ordeal. But he wanted to thank the scores of rescue workers from various fire departments and agencies who helped him.
"I say, 'Thank you for everybody [who] saved my life,' " he said.
The hospital later released a statement from Flores expressing his gratitude.
"I am grateful to all those who rescued me, especially the firemen, police officers and all the EMS personnel who sacrificed themselves and stayed with me during the entire time of my rescue," Flores said in the statement, through an interpreter.
"I felt that they treated me with compassion and concern. I was very well cared for at Nassau University Medical Center, and I thank the hospital staff. I had faith in God and all those helping me," the statement said.
Flores said he has a wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 11, in his native El Salvador, and he spoke to his family by phone Tuesday night. "My God saved me," he said. "I believe it."