One Rescued O.C. Hiker Released from Hospital

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HIKERIRVINE, Calif. (KTLA) — One of the two Orange County hikers who went missing for several days last week in Trabuco Canyon was released from the hospital Sunday.

Nicolas Cendoya, 19, recovered at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif. after becoming lost with his friend, 18-year-old Kyndall Jack, on Easter Sunday.

Jack remains hospitalized and is listed in good condition, but Cendoya walked out of the hospital on his own.

He reportedly lost 15 pounds during his three-day, three-night ordeal in the Cleveland National Forest, and doctors say he had some blunt force trauma to his chest from a fall.

Cendoya also suffered a concussion. Doctors say if he spent another night in the wilderness, he may not have made it out alive.

The teen said he saw helicopters above him the whole time, but after going so long without food or water, he didn’t know what was real.

“The last thing I could tell you is going into a lucid dream,” he told reporters after leaving the hospital.

“I had no idea I had suffered trauma in a fall. So my perspective is I fell and I just was out, unconscious. I can’t even tell you when I woke up.”

Cendoya issued a statement Friday, thanking those involved in their rescue.

“I want to thank all those who never stopped trying to find me and Kyndall, especially Amanda and her friends who were the ones to find me.

“To my parents, friends and family — so many supporters I didn’t even know I had. Thanks to all the nurses and doctors here at Mission for the great care I’ve gotten.

“I want to thank the officer for risking his life to save Kyndall, and wish him the best in his recovery.

I also want to thank the firefighters who climbed up to save me. And, I want to thank the media for keeping attention on us to help get us rescued.

“The whole time I was lost, I felt the presence of Jesus and my friend, Carlos, who died last year of cancer. I felt they were both with me, inspiring me to stay alive.

“I was so relieved to hear that Kyndall was found and will be okay. I can’t wait to see her face-to-face and give her a big hug. I just want to see for myself that she’s okay.”

When searchers found Cendoya dehydrated and exhausted on Wednesday night, he and hiking Kyndall Jack had become separated.

Jack was discovered Thursday morning clinging to the side of a cliff in the Trabuco Canyon area.

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 hospital 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 was found following 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.

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

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