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Missing hikers: Pair found not far from each other, officials say

April 05, 2013|By Kate Mather and Rick Rojas

The two hikers missing for days in Orange County's Trabuco Canyon were eventually found not far from each other, each about a half mile from where they had parked their car, authorities said.

"From the map's perspective, it appears they were pretty close," Orange County sheriff's Lt. John Park told reporters Thursday afternoon.

Nicolas Cendoya, 19, was found the night before off a gravel road that had been traversed by rescue crews and volunteers who had come to join in the search, about 200 yards up a ridge. Kyndall Jack, 18, was found in a steep ravine Thursday morning, after a rescue crew heard her screams.

PHOTOS: Missing hikers in Orange County

Park said Thursday that crews had scoured the area since the pair went missing Sunday but described a rugged, hilly terrain that made the search more difficult. Helicopters hovered overhead and dogs sniffed the ground, looking for any sign of the two.

When Cendoya was found, crews had to cut through "extremely high brush" to reach him, Park said, and even when they were about 10 feet away "they still couldn't see him."

He was wedged in a V-shaped ridge high off a creek bed, buffeted by thick brush. One volunteer firefighter said the team tried several times to shimmy their way up only to slide down. Another said he had to hack his way through the brush, at some points crawling on his knees.

Cendoya, who was wearing board shorts and a shirt but no shoes, was covered in scratches, Park said. He was taken to a Mission Viejo hospital, where he was recovering Thursday.

Jack was found late Thursday morning, when a rescue team heard a woman screaming, Park said. Additional resources were brought in -- dogs on the ground and a helicopter in the air -- and crews were eventually able to hone in on her location.

It took about 90 minutes from the time the crew heard Jack to the time she was hoisted off the rocky hillside, Park said. She was flown to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

Details of her condition were not known, but Park said she was "responsive to emergency staff."

"The best we can tell, she's in stable condition," he said.

But Jack's rescue led to a head injury for a reserve deputy who fell about 60 feet during the ordeal, authorities said. That deputy was rushed to Mission Hospital's intensive care unit with "very serious injuries," Park said, though they were not believed to be life-threatening.

Officials praised those involved in the days-long search at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

"Holy smokes, they did a phenomenal job," Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. "These two individuals, Nicolas and Kyndall, are very, very lucky people. They're very, very lucky young people to have their future ahead of them."

Though authorities admitted Thursday morning that time was of the essence, they emphasized they had always been optimistic the two would be found. Capt. Jon Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority reiterated that Thursday afternoon.

"Today was the exact result we were looking for," he said.

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