SACRAMENTO (CBS) — What began as a romantic Valentine’s getaway nearly ended tragically for a Sacramento couple. Using items in their car and the clothes off their back, Mark Schroeder and Janette DeGrace beat the odds to survive being stranded in a remote Sierra wilderness for three days.
“Thank you my hero. You saved my life,” DeGrace told Schroeder Thursday.
The former corrections officer and her audio/visual engineer boyfriend disappeared Sunday following a Valentine’s getaway trip to a winery in the Sierra.
For three days, up to 75 friends and family searched remote mountain roads. On Wednesday, the couple was found. But that discovery belies the miracle of how they survived.
The couple rummaged through Schroeder’s Porsche 911, which became stuck during an unexpected snowstorm on Sunday. After 48 hours, they had eaten the Girl Scout cookies they had on board.
Schroeder had no choice but to walk into thigh-deep Sierra snow because DeGrace was suffering a pancreatic attack. He feared his girlfriend would lapse into a coma.
They discovered a trash bag and using DeGrace’s bra straps as shoe laces, Schroeder made snowshoes. He also used his girlfriend’s socks as gloves.
Schroeder walked through six miles of wilderness, searching for a cellphone signal.
“If I don’t get cell reception and it get’s dark, I’m frozen to death. Coyotes or whatever is going to take care of me,” he recalled.
After braving below freezing temperatures and howling wind, Schroeder climbed a peak and established reception.
The next voice he heard was a 911 operator followed soon by the bluster of a CHP helicopter.
“You never seen a guy cry to see a cell phone work,” Schroeder said. “I started crying because I knew we were going to be saved.”
He directed the chopper to his ailing girlfriend. “I knew he’d made it when I saw the helicopter,” DeGrace said. “Mark was OK.”
Schroeder and DeGrace were checked at a hospital and released. Neither of them suffered frostbite or any lasting injury.
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