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Rescued hiker: 'I just thought I was in a big dream'

April 09, 2013|By Rick Rojas

An 18-year-old hiker who was missing for days in Orange County's Trabuco Canyon says she doesn't remember much from her ordeal.

"I honestly didn't even know I was missing," Kyndall Jack told reporters Monday outside UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange. "I didn't know I was gone. I didn't know anything was going on. I just thought I was in a big dream."

Jack said she did not know at what point she became separated from her friend, Nicolas Cendoya, 19, or how long she had been in the spot where she was rescued Thursday. She said she spoke to Cendoya after the rescue, hoping to piece together their recollections, but the effort was futile.

PHOTOS: Missing hikers in Orange County 

The Costa Mesa hikers, who attended high school together, set out Easter Sunday in the hope of climbing as high as they could. The pair, Jack said, had brought three small water bottles with them. She had a lighter, cellphone, glasses and keys in her backpack.

As darkness set in, they realized they were lost and called 911. After Jack's cellphone died, she said she began having panic attacks and vomited. By the first evening, she said, the two of them had begun hallucinating, presumably because of dehydration.

She said she got scared when Cendoya went in and out of consciousness. They told each other not to close their eyes.

From that point, Jack's only memories were of fighting off an animal (she could not say what kind), trying to use her lighter to "light the sky" and signal for help, and finding her way to the rocky area where she stayed until she was found.

At one point, she said, she believed she was being attacked by a python. She said she had also hallucinated that twigs were straws that she could suck for water.

Scores of rescuers and volunteers descended upon the area, scouring the scrubby terrain. Cendoya was found first, on Wednesday night. Jack was rescued the next day.

She was airlifted to the hospital after rescuers worked for more than an hour to pluck her off a steep incline. One of the rescuers fell about 60 feet, suffering a serious head injury.

On Monday, Jack was wheeled out of the hospital, saying she was "still in a lot of pain, but it's getting better."

Jack injured her hand, she said, holding it up Monday to demonstrate its limited mobility. Her nails were worn down and fingers bloodied, but she said doctors told her that her hand should function normally again. And she lifted the left leg of her sweat pants to reveal scrapes, cuts and bruises. When she was rescued, she was severely dehydrated and had dirt and rocks in her mouth that she had tried to eat while disoriented.

She was "still in a lot of pain," she said, "but it's getting better."

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Twitter: @RaR

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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