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Missing hikers: 'Clock is obviously ticking,' officials say

April 04, 2013|By Rick Rojas, Kate Mather and Irfan Khan

As the hours stretch on in the search for a missing hiker in Trabuco Canyon, officials said finding the girl's friend alive the night before has given them a renewed sense of optimism.

The search for Kyndall Jack, 18, is now in its fourth day, with scores of rescuers scouring the area on the ground and overhead, deploying helicopters and search dogs in the canyons of south Orange County.

"The clock is obviously ticking -- she's been out there a long time," Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jason Park said, adding that with the mild weather conditions and her fitness and health level, "it's pretty promising."

UPDATE: Second missing hiker found in Trabuco Canyon

Jack has been missing since Sunday, when she and friend Nicholas Cendoya called authorities and said they had gotten lost on their hike. Cendoya, 19, was found dehydrated and disoriented on Wednesday night, about half a mile from where he parked his car.

At this point, officials say they plan on continuing the search for Jack for as long as it takes.

"We're very optimistic," said Capt. Jon Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority, "and we're not going to stop."

Cendoya was found off a gravel road that had been traversed by rescue crews and volunteers who had come to join in the search, officials said at a news conference. He was spotted by hikers in the area, though officials could not say whether they were connected with the search.

Rescue teams had to slash through thick brush to get to Cendoya, who was wearing board shorts and a shirt but did not have shoes, Park said.

Cendoya was taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where hospital spokeswoman Tammi Sharp said he was in serious condition Thursday morning. She provided no other details, other than that Cendoya was talking and his family was with him.

Park said Cendoya's injuries were not life-threatening and appeared to be mostly superficial.

Muir of the fire authority said that Cendoya was "conscious and talkative" and has asked about Jack.

But Cendoya had little to offer in terms of recollection of when he and Jack separated, or any of the events the precipitated them being lost. "It's very confusing for him at this point," Park said.

He added: "We're talking to someone who's confused and sometimes doesn't know where he's at .... It's easy to get lost out there, it's easy to get where you can't see five feet in front of you."

But Jack's father told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday morning that some information had been gleaned from Cendoya.

Russ Jack said Cendoya indicated that he had communicated with Kyndall Jack even after they were separated. When he was found, Cendoya thought the girl had already been saved, Russ Jack said.

"Nicholas obviously was disoriented because of dehydration ... he thought that Kyndall had already been rescued," Russ Jack said. "He said, 'I haven't seen her for a day. I think she's already been rescued.' "

"Of course we all kind of broke up. That hurt us that they split up somehow," he continued. "But apparently Kyndall has twisted her ankle or something and could not keep up with Nicholas trying to get out of the brush they're in."

 Kyndall Jack's family has remained in the area around the clock. "We've been here," her father said. "That's all we can do. Not just wait it out, but join in."

Her father thanked others who had come to help with the search, but said Thursday that those without proper training should stay away. Authorities echoed those concerns, saying more people in the area could hinder search dogs' ability to track the teenager.

Jack's father said his family was not giving up.

"We're all still very, very hopeful that she's going to come out of this OK," he said.

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