2 Hikers Rescued in Orange County Recovering – Wendy Burch Reports
TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. (KTLA) — Two hikers were recovering in Orange County hospitals on Friday, after rescue crews hoisted the second to safety on Thursday afternoon.
18-year-old Kyndall Jack was discovered clinging to the side of a cliff in the Trabuco Canyon area.
It had been four days since she went missing while hiking with a friend, 19-year-old Nicholas Cendoya.
When searchers found Cendoya dehydrated and exhausted on Wednesday night, he said they’d become separated and he hadn’t seen her recently.
On Thursday, Jack’s screams caught the attention of a search team, setting in motion her dramatic rescue.
They summoned additional rescuers and a helicopter, which eventually located her under a canopy of brush high on a hillside.
“I yelled out to her to see if she could see me,” said rescuer Mike Leum. “She said she could see me, but I could not see her.”
Leum shouted at her to wave her arms. She could only wave one, she told told him. The other was hurt.
Leum kept his eyes on the teen as he directed a helicopter to hoist her off the small rocky outcrop where she was stranded. The rescue took about 90 minutes.
During the rescue effort, a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy fell 60 feet down a hillside and suffered a serious head injury. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
“She was severely dehydrated,” Leum said. “She was confused — she didn’t really know much of anything.”
Rescuers said she had a lot of dirt in and around her mouth, and they were worried about giving her water for fear that she would choke.
Jack, a college student from Costa Mesa, was airlifted to UC Irvine Medical Center.
She was undergoing tests and being treated for dehydration and hypothermia, a hosptial spokesman said.
Her family “would like to thank every one for their help, and to thank them for keeping her in their thoughts and prayers,” a hospital spokesperson said.
Officials said Jack was roughly 1,400 feet from where Cendoya had been found and less than a mile from where they had parked their car.
Cendoya, meantime, remains hospitalized at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo with dehydration and superficial cuts.
He posted a message to his Facebook account on Thursday night thanking everyone for their prayers and support.
“Thank you all for keeping Kyndall Jack and I in your prayers,” he said. “We love you all and I can’t wait to see her and give her a hug and tell her we did it.”
Authorities got a tip from hikers in the area who made contact with a training team from the Orange County Fire Authority.
They indicated where they believed they had found Cendoya, and that team was able to coordinate with their airship to rescue him.
He was found wedged in a crevice high above a creek bed, surrounded by thick brush.
Searchers had to cut through the brush to get to him, and the visibility on the ground was only about 10 feet, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Park said.
Cendoya was 500 feet from a busy roadway, but he disoriented from extreme dehydration, authorities said.
He had lost his shoes and had cuts and scratches on his feet and body. He told hospital staff that he covered himself with brush at night to stay warm, and prayed.
Cendoya also told authorities when he was rescued that he thought Jack had already been found.
The massive search for the teens began on Sunday night, and eventually grew to include 16 different agencies.
Friends said that Cendoya and Jack were accomplished athletes who regularly worked out together at a local gym, but they were not experienced hikers.
They took no food, did not inform friends of their route. Cendoya was dressed in board shorts and a T-shirt.
They set out on a popular trail leading to a waterfall, but apparently strayed from the path and quickly became lost in the rugged terrain and thorny chaparral.
As night fell, Cendoya used his dying cellphone to call 911 around 8:30 p.m.
“He was panting and said, ‘We’re out of water,’” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Jon Muir said.
Cendoya estimated that he and Jack were about a mile from their car in Holy Jim Canyon. The distance proved right, but the location he gave the operator was “totally” wrong, Muir said.
Their cellphone battery died before authorities were able to get an accurate GPS location for the pair.
Dr. Michael Ritter said on Thursday that Cendoya was hoping his ordeal would convince others to be better prepared.
“He is very concerned that we offer pointers to all the hikers out there so that they can take care,” the doctor said.
-KTLA/Los Angeles Times