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Missing hikers found: Rescuer suffers serious head wound

April 04, 2013|By Kate Mather, Jill Cowan and Ahn Do

As authorities cheered the rescue of two hikers in the mountains of Orange County, they also were carefully monitoring the condition of a rescuer who was seriously hurt Thursday.

The rescuer, an unidentified Orange County reserve deputy, fell about 60 feet and hit his head.

"Now our focus is on the reserve deputy," said Sheriff's Lt. Jason Park.

The deputy was in serious condition and in intensive care, but his injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.

The rescue of the hiker Kyndall Jack occurred Thursday around noon when searchers head her voice. The 18-year-old’s frantic screams from a cliff in the Trabuco Canyon area caught the attention of a search team and led to a protracted and dramatic rescue.

PHOTOS: The search for missing hikers

“I yelled out to her to see if she could see me,” said rescuer Mike Leum. “She said she could see me, but I could not see her.”

Leum shouted at her to wave her arms. She could wave only one, she told told him. The other was injured.

Leum kept his eyes on the teen as he directed a helicopter to hoist her off rocky outcrop where she was stranded.  

“She was severely dehydrated,” he said. “She was confused -- she didn’t really know much of anything.”

Jack, a college student from Costa Mesa, was airlifted to UCI Medical Center, where a spokesman said she was being treated for dehydration and hypothermia and undergoing tests. Her family “would like to thank every one for their help, and to thank them for keeping her in their thoughts and prayers,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Her friend and hiking companion, Nicolas Cendoya, 19, rescued Wednesday night, remained hospitalized for dehydration and superficial cuts.

Though officials said they were thrilled with the happy ending, they used the opportunity to remind the public of the hazards that inexperienced and unprepared hikers pose to themselves and rescuers.

The massive search operation which began Sunday night grew to include 16  state and local agencies. Asked for the cost of the search, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Park said he didn’t know, “but it’s a good question.”

He stopped short of blaming Cendoya and Jack.

“We don't know what they came out there to do,” Park said. “We're not in a position to point fingers.”

Jack and Cendoya, friends from Costa Mesa High School, set out for their hike Easter Sunday. Both were accomplished athletes who regularly worked out together at a local gym, but according to one friend, they were not experienced hikers. They took no food, did not inform friends of their route and Cendoya was dressed in board shorts and a T-shirt.

After embarking on a popular trail leading to a waterfall, they apparently strayed from the path and quickly became lost in the rugged terrain and thorny chaparral. As night fell, Cendoya used the remaining power on his dying cellphone to call 911.

“He was panting and said, ‘We’re out of water,’” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Jon Muir said. Cendoya estimated that he and Jack were about a mile from their car in Holy Jim Canyon. The distance proved right, but the location he gave the operator was “totally” wrong, Muir said.

After four days searching by helicopter, foot, horseback and bloodhound, hikers spotted Cendoya just before 8 p.m. Wednesday wedged in a V-shaped ridge high off a creek bed, buffeted by thick brush. He was 500 feet from a busy roadway, but disoriented from extreme dehydration, authorities said. He had lost his shoes and had cuts and scratches on his feet and body.

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