Three Merritt residents spent a chilly Valentine’s Day evening stranded in the wilderness before they were found by emergency crews after midnight.

While driving along a narrow road south of Lilly Lake some 45 minutes south of Merritt, the trio had attempted to turn their pickup truck around, causing the truck to slide about 30 feet down a ravine at about 4 p.m.

The vehicle remained upright and none of the occupants were injured. The two women and one man, all in their early 30s, were able to climb out of the vehicle and used a radio in their truck to call for help.

RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore told the Herald that at about 6 p.m. that evening, Merritt police received a call from a truck driver saying he heard someone calling for help on his radio as he drove by Merritt.

The trucker said he thought the people on the other end of the radio said they were trapped in a rolled vehicle on Midday Valley Road and needed help, but wasn’t able to give any detailed information to police.

The RCMP made patrols, but were unable to locate the people.

At 7:45 p.m., another truck driver called police advising of people in distress near Loon Lake, prompting a search effort from the fire department, RCMP and BC Ambulance Service, which also came up empty-handed.

“Everybody went out to Loon Lake, but they weren’t able to find anything,” Dunsmore said, noting emergency responders began to realize the distress calls were coming from the same people.

“We just didn’t know where they were,” she said.

Dunsmore said it wasn’t immediately clear if the people were trapped in the vehicle or not.

After more calls from truck drivers intercepting the radioed calls for help, search and rescue teams from Merritt and Logan Lake were called to help comb the back roads at about 9 p.m.

Search parties were sent out to the Jack Schwartz Forest Service Road, as well as the Petit Creek and Patchett Roads. Thirteen search and rescue members with ATVs responded, Nicola Valley Search and Rescue search manager Lynne Broekhuizen said.

The information searchers had on the location of the truck was vague at best.

Luckily, search and rescue made radio contact with the stranded trio at about midnight.

“Radio frequencies are strange things. Sometimes somebody up on the top of the Coquihalla [Highway] would have better reception than those of us down in the valley,” Broekhuizen said.

The three didn’t know which road they were on, but were found after mentioning a burnt-out trailer they had passed just before crashing.

Even luckier, that tipped off one RCMP officer who recognized the description of the trailer from his experience with rally racing.

The people were located at about 12:30 a.m. and were extricated from the area by search and rescue members by about 2 a.m. Their vehicle was left for later extrication.

The trio had been driving out in the woods searching for stones for their garden, Dunsmore said.

They hadn’t told anyone where they were going, which is a cardinal rule for travelling out in the backcountry, Broekhuizen said.

Without the tip of the burnt trailer, the three could have been stranded out in the woods all night, Broekhuizen confirmed, noting they were wearing hoodies and not proper cold weather clothing.

Temperatures at midnight that night reached the freezing mark.

She said people travelling in the backcountry should bring blankets or extra clothing and tell someone where they’re going in addition to having survival gear in their vehicles at all times.