Sacto 9-1-1
February 16, 2012
Rescued Sacramento couple happy to be back home after three-day ordeal

found_safe_1B.jpgBy Carlos Alcalá
calcala@sacbee.com

A Sacramento couple who were trapped for days in a snowed-in car in remote Placer County were happy and relieved today, a day after they were rescued.

Mark Schroeder and Janette DeGrace met with members of the media at Schroeder's home to talk about their ordeal, which went from a fun Sunday outing to a terrifying situation that had them fearing for their lives.

The two had gone to a remote mountain bar called Uncle Tom's Cabin on Sunday. On the way home, Schroeder's Porsche 911 got stuck in the snow and the couple spent three nights in the car near the Hellhole and French Meadows reservoirs.

They carefully rationed a few snacks they had with them and ran the engine intermittently to keep warm as snow fell and temperatures dropped.

"We just waited until we were so cold, and then it turned on and warmed up a little bit," DeGrace said.

The two said they didn't sleep much at night because of the cold, even though they squeezed their two bodies into one Porsche seat to keep as warm as possible.

When they first became stuck they were not overly concerned, expecting they'd be able to free the car or walk out by the next day. But snow kept falling, making it clear that their situation was more desperate.

By Wednesday morning, Schroeder decided he would have to hike out to summon help. He was worried that another storm might arrive, making their situation even worse, and concerned about DeGrace, who did not have her medication for a pancreas condition.

"I thought, I got one shot to get out of here," Schroader said. "If I made it, I knew I'd save her."

We he finally left, DeGrace said, "he didnt' have a good coat, we had no blankets. "I gave him my sock to put on his hands. I really thought he was going to walk to his death."

Schroader said he left the car at about 10:30 a.m. and made it to the hilltop where his cellphone worked at about 4 p.m.

He estimated he hiked six miles, uphill, through the snow.

"And I wasn't even going to school," he joked at this morning's meeting with the media.

Schroder said the when he called 911 the dispatcher asked what his name was, When he told her she said, "Oh, yeah, we're looking for you."

A California Highway Patrol helicopter picked Schroeder up, and he directed them to where the car where DeGrace was waiting. Because the copter couldn't carry both, the crew members used their PA system to tell DeGrace they would come back to get her soon.

They then took Schroeder to Foresthill. DeGrace soon joined him, and they were sent by ambulance to Sutter Auburn Fairth Hospital, where they spent the night, visited by a stream of relieved friends and relatives.

Over the previous days, as the couple had huddled in the snowed-in Porsche in Placer County, those same friends and family members had been searching for them more than 60 miles away in El Dorado County.

Jim Jungsten, a friend and coworkers of Schroeder's, became concerned after Schroeder didn't show up for work Monday or answer his phone, and Schroe der's son said his father hadn't come home Sunday night. Jungsten started organizing a search effort.

Based on reports that the couple had been at a winery in Fair Play, the search was concentrated in the southern El Dorado wine country, south of Highway 50. Up to 75 volunteers and a California Highway Patrol helicopter scoured the area, fearing that Schroeder and DeGrace had driven off the side of a foothill road and were injured.

DeGrace told media members this morning that there was at least one good result of their ordeal.

"It had to be a life and death situation to get him to tell me he loves me," she said

Call The Bee's Carlos Alcalá, (916) 321-1987.

Photo caption: Jim Jungsten, left, talks with Mark Schroeder, center, and Janette DeGrace, at a news conference at Schroeder's home on Thursday. Schroeder and DeGrace went missing on Sunday when Schroeder's car became stuck in the snow. Rescuers found them on Wednesday. Photo by Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

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