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Volunteer who heard missing hiker's shouts credits 'amazing' luck

April 04, 2013|By Irfan Khan and Kate Mather

A volunteer hiker who heard the cries for help from missing hiker Nicolas Cendoya credited "an amazing amount of luck" for the rescue.

Ted Sindzinski said he spent Wednesday hiking in the area and decided to join the volunteers searching for Cendoya and Kyndall Jack, 18.

He joined up with a friend of the pair about 5 p.m. and decided to do a “simple, 10-minute hike, just to look around places that perhaps somebody didn’t have time to go to.”

PHOTOS: The search for missing hikers

They walked about 50 or 60 feet up the hill, away from the road, when they heard Cendoya's shouts.

“We heard a voice. We thought it was another searcher, maybe somebody in another group,” Sindzinski said.

After asking a few questions, they learned the man's name was Nick and that he was one of the two hikers missing since Easter Sunday.

Sindzinski said the group flagged down a rescue team, who began efforts to pull the man from the rugged terrain.

Sindzinski said he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Cendoya was two canyons away, he said, but they were standing in the right spot to hear his voice echo off the canyon walls.

“An amazing amount of luck,” he said. “We got lucky that he was there and shouted. It was just luck.”

Cendoya spent days in the rugged hills of Orange County's Trabuco Canyon, praying each night for strength and covering himself with brush to keep warm, his doctor said Thursday.

"Nick said the thing that kept him going was praying," Dr. Michael Ritter told reporters gathered outside Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where Cendoya is recovering. "He said he would pray every day and every night to give him the strength to get out of there."

Missing since Sunday, the 19-year-old was barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and board shorts when he was found Wednesday night, authorities said. Ritter said he had tried to protect himself from the elements by covering up with bushes and brush at night.

Cendoya was dehydrated and disoriented when he was found, his arms and legs covered in scratches, officials said. He was rushed to the Mission Viejo hospital, where he arrived in "very serious" condition, Ritter said.

Cendoya, his doctor said, is "doing much better" Thursday, adding he was "recovering well" and having "regular" conversations. Ritter said he thought Cendoya might be able to leave the hospital in a few days.

Jack was rescued Thursday around noon after searchers heard her shouts. She was airlifted by helicopter to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she is in stable condition.

"Today was the exact result of what we were all looking for," said Capt. John Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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