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Hikers' health improving; rescuer in serious condition

One hiker is expected to remain hospitalized over the weekend; his companion is in intensive care. The reserve deputy has head injuries.

April 05, 2013|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times

The two hikers who were lost for days in Orange County's rugged backcountry remain hospitalized and are showing signs of improvement, but a reserve deputy who fell during the dramatic rescue is in serious condition with head injuries.

The day after the second of the two hikers was found hidden in head-high brush, family members thanked the search teams and volunteers who scoured the area around Trabuco Canyon, and one of the rescued hikers issued a statement Friday praising those who had come to his aid.

"I want to thank all those who never stopped trying to find me and Kyndall…. I can't wait to see her face to face and give her a big hug," Nicolas Cendoya said in a statement released by Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center.

"I just want to see for myself that she's OK."

Cendoya, 19, is in serious condition at the Mission Viejo hospital but is "progressing well," said Tamara Sharp, a hospital spokeswoman. He is expected to remain hospitalized over the weekend.

Cendoya was pulled from the canyon Wednesday night, but his friend and hiking companion, Kyndall Jack, 18, wasn't found until midday Thursday. Both were disoriented and weak.

Jack was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where she was treated for dehydration and hypothermia. She remained in intensive care Friday while doctors continued to run tests, said John Murray, a spokesman for the hospital.

"She will probably be here a few more days," he said.

After hiking a popular trail leading to a waterfall in Holy Jim Canyon on Easter Sunday, the two apparently strayed from the path and became lost in the rugged terrain.

As night fell, Cendoya used the remaining power on his cellphone to call 911. After four days of searching by helicopter, on foot, on horseback and with bloodhounds, hikers spotted Cendoya just before 8 p.m. Wednesday.

He appeared disoriented from extreme dehydration and had lost his shoes. Just before noon the next day, a team of sheriff's deputies from Los Angeles and Ventura counties heard a woman's screams. Eventually, Jack was found under a canopy of brush high on a hillside, about 1,400 feet from where Cendoya had been. They were less than half a mile from their parked car.

Mike Leum, a reservist with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, had been part of the search team since Tuesday, driven to find the recent high school graduates in part because he has a 20-year-old child. He said he met Jack's parents the day before the rescue.

"I looked them both in the eyes and told them definitely that we were going to find her," he said. "I'm glad I was able to come through on that."

A reserve deputy, a 20-year-veteran of the department, fell about 60 feet during the rescue as he reached for Jack. He remains in serious condition. Officials said he sustained serious but non-life-threatening head injuries.

"He is responsive and can move all of his limbs," said Gail Krause, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, in an email. The department did not release his name.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

Times staff writers Kate Mather and Anh Do contributed to this report.

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