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Missing hikers: 'Very survivable conditions,' O.C. authorities say

April 03, 2013|By Kate Mather and Lauren Williams

Searchers remained "upbeat" and "optimistic" Wednesday as they continued to scour Orange County's Trabuco Canyon for signs of two teenage hikers missing for days, one of the teen's fathers said.

Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, both of Costa Mesa, got lost on Easter Sunday, telling authorities late that evening that they were about a mile from their car in Holy Jim Canyon. Their cellphone lost power soon afterward, and no contact has been made since.

Jack's father told reporters Wednesday morning that dozens of friends and family were still combing the area. A sheriff's deputy called out on a loudspeaker: "Nicholas and Kyndall, this is the Orange County Sheriff's Department. We want to help you."

AUDIO: Russ Jack Interview

"At this point, everybody's still upbeat, optimistic about finding the kids in good shape and alive," Russ Jack said.

Russ Jack said about 4:15 a.m., "little sparks" spotted on a hillside, "like a dead lighter trying to get somebody's attention."

"It ended up being nothing," he said. "They already searched out as daybreak came."

Russ Jack ended the brief interview with a message for his daughter.

"Kyndall, I love you," he said.

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's 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 recent 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 family members told authorities that 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.

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Times photographer Irfan Khan contributed to this report.

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