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Rescued hiker speaks out on Facebook: 'We did it'

April 05, 2013|By Kate Mather, Rick Rojas and Irfan Khan

In a message posted on his Facebook page Thursday night, one of the hikers who went missing for days in Orange County's Trabuco Canyon thanked the dozens of searchers who scoured the rugged terrain and "didnt give up" on the pair.

Nicolas Cendoya, 19, remains hospitalized at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, but said in the message he's "not in as much pain." He was pulled from Trabuco Canyon on Wednesday night; his friend, Kyndall Jack, 18, wasn't found until late Thursday  morning. (Authorities had initially reported Cendoya's first name as being spelled Nicholas.)

"I am so thankful god had Kyndall Kihapai Jack saved," he wrote. "It killed me she was out there still."

"Cant wait to see her and give her a hug and tell her we did it," he added.

Cendoya and Jack, friends from Costa Mesa High School, set out for their hike Easter Sunday. Though friends said the two were accomplished athletes, they were not experienced hikers.

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, on foot, on horseback and with bloodhounds, hikers spotted Cendoya just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, wedged in a crevice high above a creek bed, surrounded by 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. He told authorities he thought Jack had already been rescued.

Just before noon the next day, a team of sheriff's deputies from Los Angeles and Ventura counties heard a woman's screams. They summoned additional rescuers and a helicopter, which eventually located Jack under a canopy of brush high on a hillside.

She was roughly 1,400 feet from where Cendoya had been found and less than a mile from their vehicle. She, too, was severely dehydrated and rushed to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, where a spokesman said she was undergoing tests and being treated for dehydration and hypothermia.

Her family "would like to thank everyone for their help and to thank them for keeping her in their thoughts and prayers," a hospital spokesperson said.

Cendoya called the ordeal "a test from god" and said prayer was what kept him going.

"I never knew how many friends i truly had," he wrote. "thank you too all who didn't give up on Kyndall Kihapai Jack and i."

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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