KGO-TV(SAN FRANCISCO) — After five days of drinking melted snow, bundled up in a Jeep buried in feet of snow to protect them from freezing temperatures, Maia Herman-Kitami and Carlos Hernandez couldn't have been happier to see a group of strangers on snowmobiles.
Their incessant honking of the horn made that clear.
"I just want to say thank you and how grateful both of us are because without them, we wouldn't be here," Herman-Kitami told San Francisco ABC station KGO-TV on Tuesday, a day after they were pulled out of the snow by good Samaritans.
The couple had been snow camping on Jan. 30, but decided to further explore California's Mendocino National Forest the next day. But the weather quickly turned south and the pair's yellow Jeep Wrangler got stuck in the snow. They tried, and failed, to dig the SUV out.
With no cellphone service, it didn't take long for the couple to realize they were in big trouble. They started rationing food and stayed inside the vehicle as the temperatures dipped below freezing. The forecast was for over a foot of snow over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
The couple was supposed to return home to San Francisco on Friday night, and their parents went to police to report them missing on Saturday.
The couple started to get desperate by Monday.
"When it was 4 o'clock and nobody was coming, I started getting kind of emotional and I was just like, 'I want to go home,'" Herman-Kitami told KGO.
Enter Jason Logan and his father-in-law Ron Lovell.
The two had heard the couple was missing in their area and debated going out to search for them. A public plea from Hernandez's sister was enough to get them on their snowmobiles.
After four hours of searching on Monday, Logan told Redding ABC affiliate KRCR-TV they were about ready to call it quits. They met up with another group out looking for the couple when moments later, the day of searching finally paid off.
"Sure enough, we come around the turn and there's a Jeep 300 yards away," said Logan. "It was just mind-boggling."
Then Logan's thoughts turned to reality: Would the pair even have survived the ordeal?
"They started laying on the horn, you saw both doors open and they jumped out each side," said Logan.
The rescue likely came just in time. The region got hit by a big snowstorm on Tuesday.
"With the weather we had this morning, I'm fairly convinced the Jeep would have been buried by [Tuesday] morning," said Logan.
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