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Missing hikers: Man prayed 'every day and night,' doctor says

April 04, 2013|By Kate Mather and Rick Rojas

This post has been corrected, as noted below.

Nicholas 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.

"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.

PHOTOS: The search for missing hikers

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.

"He was not put on life support, but he was very, very serious when he came in," 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.

Cendoya's initial condition made it difficult for authorities to gather much information from him about his friend, Kyndall Jack, 18, who was also missing.

Ritter said Cendoya and Jack had been "hiking around" Sunday when night fell and the two became separated. Cendoya said that was the last time he saw Jack, the doctor said.

Jack remained missing until late Thursday morning, when a hiker alerted authorities about a woman's screams. After she was located by rescuers, Jack was airlifted off the rugged hillside and rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange, officials said.

“She is responsive, appears to be dehydrated, she is weak,” said Lt. Jason Park of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “She’s alive, she’s conscious and she’s being transported.”

Capt. John Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority said that when Jack’s parents were told she had been found, “they cried, they hugged us, they thanked us immensely."

"This is a good outcome," he told reporters. "This is why we do what we do.”

[For the record, 3 p.m. April 4: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that UCI Medical Center is in Irvine; it is in Orange.]

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