Watch CBS News

'I Thought To Myself, I'm Going To Die;' Teen Couple Survives Getting Stuck In Heavy Sierra Snow

PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) — Two Auburn teens are doing well after getting stuck in heavy snow overnight in the high Sierra. The area is China Wall and it's near Forest Hill.

"I left and I didn't know if I was going to make it, but I definitely had her in the back of my head," said John Paul Hansen of Auburn. "It was supposed to be a good day."

It's a trip the young couple has taken before, only this time, things took a dramatic turn last Sunday night.

"We definitely underestimated how quickly weather can change," he said.

In an instant and on a back county road, John Paul and his girlfriend McKenna Kelly were stuck in one of the worst winter storms.

READHacked Nest Camera Terrifies Family With Warning Of North Korean Missile Attack

"It was so bad that all the wheels were spinning and we could not get out," she said.

"I think hours were going by for me to get the car unstuck and nothing was working," John Paul said.

The two hunkered down with John Paul's pup Marley with no cell service the conditions were worsening.

"That's when we were getting scared and hours were going by and we started losing it," McKenna said.

"Once it hit that 4:50 mark in the morning, I was like, All right. I have to leave. I have to get cell service to get us help,'" John Paul said.

By 8:30 a.m., still nothing. McKenna fearing the worst left the car and Marley behind.

ALSO: Former State Lawmaker Returns To Capitol As Lobbyist Despite Sexual Harassment Accusations

"In my heart, when I was hiking, I thought there's no way he can make in these conditions," she said.

In little clothes and knee deep snow. She didn't get far before turning back.

"I was sitting in the car and I thought to myself, 'I'm going to die, there's no oxygen in the car, it's freezing, I'm soaked in water from the snow' and I started writing notes to my family about how I wasn't going to make it and then I was happy to even live to 18," she said.

Without cell service, McKenna had no idea about an hour after John Paul left he was able to call 911.

Within a few hours, Placer County Search and Rescue assembled and asked a local snowmobiler to be on the lookout.

READMan Found Dead In Apartment With High Carbon Monoxide Levels

"I decided I'm just going to sit here and pray and hope someone sees me. Then I saw this guy on a snowmobile when I started screaming," she said.

"I really didn't know if either of us were going to make it, but as soon as I saw her come down that hill and I saw her on the front of that snowmobile my heart dropped," he said.

Still shaken and dealing with the pains of frostbite, McKenna is grateful to be alive.

"It's just really traumatic and I would never want to experience it and I hope people don't underestimate it," she said.

A cold life lesson they hope serves as a warning to others.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.