Missing San Francisco couple found alive in Mendocino National Forest

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A couple from San Francisco who had been reported missing since Wednesday in the Mendocino National Forest was found safe by search and rescue crews on Monday afternoon.

The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office found Maia Herman–Kitami, age 18, and Carlos Hernandez Jr., age 21, in the mountains of western Glenn County around 4:30 p.m. just as volunteers were getting ready to call off the search for the day due to blizzard-like conditions.

A spokeswoman for the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office the couple was found inside their Jeep, stuck in the snow on County Road 312 in an area known as Oceanview. The couple was safe, well, and in good spirits.

Maia and Carlos had spent months planning their trip to the forest, according to her father Keith Herman. They left San Francisco on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, in a Jeep Wrangler to go camping and off-roading in the Alder Springs area of the Mendocino National Forest.

Carlos Hernandez, Sr. said his son was very familiar with the area as they had visited the campgrounds often. The 21-year-old has wilderness survival training and he left with plenty of supplies. The couple reportedly had packed camping gear, snow gear, food, an extra car battery, and snow chains.

The couple sent a text to family members on Wednesday that they were in Willows, CA and near their destination, but said they were losing cell service. Family members reported the couple missing on Saturday when they failed to return from their trip on Friday as planned.

Tara Kitami, Maia’s mother, spoke to KTVU by phone earlier in the day and said she was confident they would be found safe.

“I want to be where my baby girl is and I think I'm going to find her,” Kitami said. “She's an amazing, beautiful girl, inside and out. I just want her back in my arms again, that's all.”

The Mendocino Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, in conjunction with Glenn County Sheriff’s Office and Willows Jeep Club assisted in the rescue. The families are ecstatic that Maia and Carlos have been found safe and will be reunited with loved ones soon.

Fabiola Hernandez, Carlos’ sister, said a woman reached out to her on Facebook after seeing missing poster signs on social media. She said her husband was part of the Willow Jeep Club volunteers who found Carlos and Maia.

“She reached out to me and said, ‘My husband and my father are out there looking for them.’ That is amazing that someone felt for my family and I and risked their lives in that blizzard to find my brother,” Hernandez said.