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Search crews recount dramatic Calif. hiker rescue

GILLIAN FLACCUS • Apr 5, 2013 at 10:28 PM

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (AP) — Two hikers were recovering from dehydration and minor injuries in Southern California hospitals on Friday night after a four-day hunt for the lost teens met a happy ending, authorities said.

Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicolas Cendoya, 19, were recuperating at separate Orange County hospitals from dehydration and minor injuries on Friday evening after being rescued from the Cleveland National Forest, where they had been missing since Sunday.

Jack was discovered Thursday, after four days of grueling searching, when rescuers suddenly heard a faint female voice calling for help. She was found clinging to a rocky outcropping no bigger than a yoga mat on a near-vertical slope.

Cendoya was rescued late Wednesday after being spotted by hikers. The two had gone missing on Easter, when they called 911 to report they were lost and out of water after wandering off Holy Jim Trail during what they expected would be an easy day hike.

The popular trail is in the Cleveland National Forest, where the dangers of 720 square miles of rugged mountain wilderness run smack up against the planned communities and shopping malls of suburban southeast Orange County.

"I have no doubt that they came out here with the best of intentions ... but this is a complicated environment and before you know it, you're lost," said Lt. Jason Park, an Orange County sheriff's spokesman.

Park added that having civilization so close can lull some hikers into a false sense of security. "It's just as dangerous today out here as it was on Sunday afternoon."

A reserve deputy who suffered a head injury when he fell 60 feet down the canyon remains in serious condition, but is expected to recover from his head injury and other injuries, said Park.

The teens are expected to remain in the hospital for several days.

Jack and Cendoya had parked their car off a dirt road just a few miles from an upscale neighborhood where on Thursday children bounced on trampolines and customers sipped lattes at a Starbucks in an outdoor strip mall.

The two got separated sometime Sunday night and were both found less than a mile from their car and "very, very close" to one another, although they did not know it, said Park.

They haven't been interviewed again since the initial conversations when they were found, and there's less urgency to do it quickly since no one is still missing, Park said.

It's unclear, for example, why Jack and Cendoya went off the well-marked trail and how much water they had with them. It's also unclear how they got separated.

Cendoya said on his Facebook page late Thursday that he was doing OK and not "in as much pain." He said he was grateful that Jack was found, and had been upset thinking about her still being in the forest after his rescue.

Jack had no memory of going hiking or of being with Cendoya, but she suffered no major internal injuries and was listed in good condition at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, said hospital spokesman John Murray.

The area where the two got lost is in a section of forest in the Santa Ana Mountains that lies along the border of Orange and Riverside counties southeast of Los Angeles. The trail ranges in elevation from about 2,000 feet to about 4,000 feet.


Associated Press writers John Rogers, Andrew Dalton, Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

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