Bay Area couple trapped in vehicle during snow storm return home

Carlos Hernandez-Isava and Maia Herman-Kitami arrived back home in San Francisco to the embrace of family and friends following a harrowing five days in the Mendocino National Forest.  

“The car first got stuck Thursday around noon. We camped out that night,” said Hernandez-Isava.

On Jan. 30, they set off for a camping and off-roading in the Alder Springs area, when a snow storm moved in and trapped them in their yellow Jeep Wrangler.

“We planned for the worse because you never know but you know there’s always those moments of being scared,” said Herman-Kitami.

They said several inches of snow piled onto the vehicle each night of the five nights they were stuck with no way out.

With food supplies dwindling, they started rationing and trying to insulate the soft-top Jeep to stay warm.

“We had sleeping mats so on top we put these sleep mats on the roof and the winds to help keep it warm,” said Herman-Kitami who went on the trip to experience snow for the first time.

Hernandez-Isava wrote SOS signs and noted each day on the window of the vehicle to alert those passing by to their presences.

Many volunteers had spent days looking for the couple including Jason Logan who hoped on his snowmobile and began to search.

“I was kind of a sporadic spur of the moment thing on a Monday morning to just find of load up these snow machines and head up on the hill,” said Logan.

He came upon a group of men in Jeeps who were calling off their search for the day because snowy conditions were getting worse.

“They said you know it’s getting late… they were in four feet of snow so they’d gone as far as the could have went,” Logan told us.

Logan decided to press ahead and located the couple just two hundred yards from where the group on the Jeep had turned around.

“I heard this motor that was different. I was like this is nothing like we’ve heard before. I pop my head up and I see this guy in a snowmobile and a full red suit and I was like holy crap,” said Herman-Kitami.

The couple says the real focus of their story are the people whom they’ve never met who contributed their time to help find them.

“If the community didn’t come together like this did for us, we may have not be found until Thursday. The scare part was if we stay there and the car would have been covered we would have lost our lives,” said Hernandez-Isava.

Both said they would make the trek to Mendocino National Forest, but next time during the spring when the snow is long gone.