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Missing hikers case: 'No clues, no sightings, no hope to cling on'

April 03, 2013|By Rick Rojas
  • Family members and friends arrive at Trabuco Flyers Club to continue the effort to find Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19.
Family members and friends arrive at Trabuco Flyers Club to continue the… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

At a dusty air strip about a mile off the road, an army of volunteers has set up a command post, sending out waves of people into the scrubby terrain to keep looking for the two hikers believed to be lost somewhere in the canyons of south Orange County.

Family and friends, neighbors and classmates -- even people who didn't know the two teenagers from Costa Mesa -- gathered Wednesday to continue the search.

The word has spread through social media networks and by mouth, and the gravel passage leading to the command post is lined with cars. Even a local shaved ice company has set up a tent, handing out free refreshments to volunteers.

PHOTOS: Missing hikers in Orange County

They are searching for Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, friends who went for a hike Sunday at Holy Jim Canyon but haven't been heard from since they called authorities that evening and their cellphone died, cutting off the call.

The work of the volunteers is concurrent with an official search, with scores of investigators combing the area for the third straight day.

"This is killer support right here," said Kyndall's father, Russ Jack, pointing to the cars winding up the road and clusters of volunteers.

"They're all climbing around trying to find them.... For all these people to come out for her, that's pretty gracious, if you ask me."


Jack, a freshman at Cal State Fullerton, attended Costa Mesa High School with Cendoya. They were friends who worked out together at a local gym.

Both are athletic, friends say: She played softball and volleyball; he was a strapping football player. And they were both well-liked and popular in high school.

"They have a lot of good friends, I can say that," said Kip Hancock, a neighbor close to the family. She's an "awesome girl. They're both good kids."

After three days without word, family and friends are still holding out hope. But it's a daunting wait, and anxiety is rising.

"I thought it would be simple," Hancock said, noting that most trails lead out of the canyon. "But, obviously, it's playing out a little longer than everyone expected."

Before dawn Wednesday, volunteers spotted what looked like flickers from a cigarette lighter high on a hill. Investigators searched the area, to no avail.

"It's been really up and down," Joel Stoltz, a family friend, said of the last few days.

"Nothing seems to make sense: no clues, no sightings, no hope to cling on."

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Rick.rojas@latimes.com

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