Second Hiker Rescued After 4 Days in Rugged Trabuco Canyon - NBC Bay Area

Second Hiker Rescued After 4 Days in Rugged Trabuco Canyon

Kyndall Jack was found alive, hours after her hiking companion, Nicholas Cendoya, was also found following an Easter hike



    Authorities: Hiker Rescue a "Tremendous Victory"

    Lt. Jason Park of the Orange County Sheriff's Department and Capt. Jon Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority took questions on the rescue on hiker Kyndall Jack on April 4, 2013, in Trabuco Canyon. (Published Thursday, April 4, 2013)

    After hearing her screams, searchers on Thursday rescued an 18-year-old woman who had been lost since going on hike a four days before in a rugged terrain in Orange County.

    Rescuers located Kyndall Jack just before noon in a steep ravine amid heavy brush in the Falls Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest, officials said. 

    About 15 hours after her companion, Nicholas Cendoya, 19, was found and airlifted, Jack was also hoisted by helicopter and transported to a hospital.

    "She's been rescued and she's alive," said Lt. Jason Park of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "She is responsive...She is weak."

    She was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, where she was found to be "hypothermic, confused and showing signs of dehydration," hospital spokesman John Murray said. Jack had many bruises, cuts and scratches on her lower body, he said.

    During the rescue, an unidentified Orange County reserve deputy volunteering for the search fell 60 feet and seriously injured his head. Rescue crews temporarily had to divert resources from Jack to help the injured deputy, who was hospitalized in intensive care with non-life-threatening injuries, Park said.

    The reserve deputy was awake, alert and moving arms and legs, sheriff's Lt. Erin Giudice said during a news conference a Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where the man was being treated.

    Jack, meanwhile, was found to be in good condition with no major internal injuries and will be moved to an intensive care unit for observation, Murray said.

    Jack's parents did not have a comment and asked media to respect their privacy, Murray added.

    "They're relieved," Murray said.

    An inexperienced hiker, Jack had ventured into the wilderness wearing only board shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes, her aunt Mandy Eamello said. 

    "Definitely not what you're supposed to wear," said Eamello, who added that her niece had only planned a short dayhike.

    Cendoya was likewise unprepared for an emergency stay in the wilderness overnight, authorities said, and friends reported he did not often hike. He was scratched over much of his body from trying to stay warm in brush at night while he was shirtless.

    "He said he would pray every day and every night to give him the strength to get out of there. But he said he got so tired and exhusted from hiking around that he lost all of his strength," said Dr. Michael Ritter, Mission Hospital medical director.

    The pair's 911 call to authorities on Sunday night had prompted a massive search effort involving professionals and hundreds of volunteers that Park said had paid off. Law enforcement officers and volunteers used dogs to search a network of trails while helicopters searched overhead.

    "It's exciting. Right now everybody is celebrating for our success, regardless of how hard they worked, how tired they are, how hungry they are ... it's a tremendous victory for them," Park said.

    Cendoya had been rescued just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, when he was found shoeless, dehydrated, disoriented and incoherent. He was about 200 yard up a ridge off Trabuco Creek Road, not far from near where he and Jack had parked their car, authorities said.

    Jack was found in the same area, just over three-quarters of a mile from the car, after searchers heard her cries, Park said.

    "I could not see her, and so I asked her to wave an arm. She said she could only wave one arm, so I said, 'Well, wave it,'" said Mike Leum of Montrose Search and Rescue. "She started waving and arm and I saw her."

    Leum said searchers had asked all the female rescue workers to remain quiet to better distinguish Jack's voice.

    "We climbed up to her, and she was in a lot of pain ... going in and out of consciousness," Jim Moss of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. "We just told her not to move because she was in a pretty precarious place."

    To rescue Cendoya in the dark of night, searchers had to cut through extremely thick brush. Visibility was less than 10 feet, Park said.

    Capt. Jon Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority said there was "a message" from the extensive rescue effort.

    "If you're going to go hiking, we want you to be safe. We want you to plan and prepare," Muir said. "Bring lots of food and water. Make sure you dress appropriately. Make sure you have communications – tell people that you're not going on the hiking trip that you're going hiking. And stay on the main trails and don't go on off-trails so that you don't get injured."

    Both Costa Mesa residents, Cendoya and Jack were hiking within the Holy Jim Canyon, part of the broader Trabuco Canyon area. Falls Canyon, where Jack was found, feeds into Holy Jim Canyon and is about a mile from the Holy Jim Trail.

    The pair's cellphone battery wore down and authorities could not get an accurate GPS "ping" from the phone to pinpoint their location, prompting an intense search, Giudice said.

    The two had become separated on Sunday night, officials said.

    Cendoya was recovering in serious but stable condition at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where the deputy injured in Jack's rescue was also taken, a hospital spokeswoman said.

    "His family and he are extremely relieved and very, very grateful to hear Kyndall has been found," said hospital spokeswoman Tammi Sharp.

    Authorities had said the fairly mild overnight conditions in the area were survivable, even when temperatures drop overnight. But the terrain off-trail can be difficult in the canyon, and fresh spring growth made is difficult to travel – and to search for the hikers.

    Moving through the dense brush could be exhausting, officials said.

    "This is an amazing, lovely place, but it's a very dangerous place," Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. "These two individuals ... are very, very lucky people."

    Hundreds of volunteers had descended on the area, hoping to help in the search. Jack's parents on Wednesday evening had pleaded with unprepared volunteers to stay away and let professionals and experienced hikers conduct the search.

    Russ Jack, the teen's father, described the scene as "modern-day circus" even as he thanked friends for their efforts.

    A couple of volunteer searchers had gotten lost Wednesday afternoon, and in a separate incident in a nearby canyon, a hiker unrelated to the search was also airlifted out after slipping and falling near a waterfall.

    On Thursday, Russ and Dawn Jack learned of their daughter's safety.

    "They were extremely happy. It was an emotional couple of moments for them," Park said. "It was very easy news for myself and Capt. Muir to deliver."

    There was no estimate on the cost of the extensive search, Park said.