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Searchers working overnight to find missing Orange County hikers

Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, called authorities Sunday night to say they were lost in the Trabuco Canyon area. A sheriff's official speculates that the two may be hurt.

April 02, 2013|By Lauren Williams, Los Angeles Times
  • Russ Jack, center, is comforted Tuesday as family members and friends wait for word on Jack’s daughter, Kyndall, and companion Nicholas Cendoya, who reported themselves lost in Holy Jim Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest on Sunday before their cellphone went dead.
Russ Jack, center, is comforted Tuesday as family members and friends wait… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Dozens of searchers on foot and horseback, some aided by bloodhounds, continued to search Tuesday for two missing hikers in the Trabuco Canyon area of Orange County.

About 20 people planned to continue the effort overnight to find Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, both of Costa Mesa. The full-scale search will resume Wednesday morning if needed.

Jack and Cendoya got lost on Easter Sunday, telling authorities late that evening that they were about a mile from their car in Holy Jim Canyon. But their cellphone lost power soon afterward and no contact has been made since.

Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Erin Guidice said Tuesday afternoon that she thinks the teenagers are alive but probably hurt: "If these two were ambulatory, I believe they would have walked out."

Bloodhounds picked up Jack and Cendoya's scents early Monday and again late Monday night, officials said. Tuesday afternoon, rescuers combed through a 2-mile arc from the hikers' car, focusing efforts on where the dogs last found the scents.

The rocky, tree-shaded dirt trail the pair took leads to a waterfall. The 2.8-mile round trip is popular with day hikers. Its difficulty is listed as moderate to serious on a U.S. Forest Service website. Jack and Cendoya, however, "did not keep to the trail," Guidice said.

Authorities said they were concerned about heat and cold stress, but the cloud cover has worked in the pair's favor, keeping temperatures at night in the low 50s.

"These are very survivable conditions," said Orange County Sheriff's Department Reserve Lt. Chuck Williams. "That's what we pray for."

Officials said Jack and Cendoya had run out of water. Because of the length of time the pair has been missing, "We want to find these two tonight," Guidice said late Tuesday.

Williams said the family told authorities neither of the missing teens has any health problems or takes any prescription drugs.

About 60 personnel from various agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Emergency Management Agency, are taking part in the search. The U.S. Forest Service gave permission to cut brush on a mountain peak to land a helicopter, which allowed L.A. County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue personnel and two dogs to be dropped between Falls Canyon and the Old Camp area, northwest of the pair's car, to search from the top down, Guidice said.

That area was chosen because a nearby cellphone tower was pinged when Jack and Cendoya called, she said.

Williams called the area "very aggressive" and said it would take the average person two to three hours to complete the trail.

"If you get off the trail you will quickly be in waist-high brush," he said, adding that there is also a loose, rocky area. The trail ranges in elevation from about 2,000 feet to about 4,000 feet.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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