Second missing California hiker rescued from mountain canyon

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 04, 2013 11:46 PM

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A college student lost since Sunday in a California mountain canyon was rescued and flown to a hospital on Thursday, a day after her hiking companion was found dazed, dehydrated but otherwise safe in a nearby ravine, authorities said.

A member of the Orange County sheriff's search team fell 60 feet and suffered a severe head injury as rescuers scrambled to reach 18-year-old Kyndall Jack in the rugged, heavily wooded canyon, Orange County sheriff's Lieutenant Jason Park said.

After vanishing for several days, both Jack and her friend, Nicholas Cendoya, 19, ended up less than a mile from where they had parked their car in the Trabuco Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, officials said.

They had set out for an Easter holiday hike through the Holy Jim Canyon, an area characterized by rough terrain, dense brush and waterfalls, but called authorities on a cellphone after dark to say they were lost, sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Krause told Reuters.

The cellphone went dead before authorities could get a fix on its signal to pinpoint the pair's precise location, she said.

Rescuers ultimately were drawn by Jack's cries for help to the spot where she was found shortly before noon local time on Thursday, Park said.

She was then hoisted into a helicopter for a flight to the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, where she was "responsive" and listed in stable condition. Doctors said she was suffering from hypothermia, confusion, dehydration and various cuts and bruises, but no major injuries.

The reserve sheriff's deputy who was hurt during the rescue was also hospitalized and expected to survive, Park said.

Orange County Fire Authority Captain John Muir told reporters that Jack's relatives were elated by news that she was found alive.

"They cried, they hugged us, thanked us immensely, and it was worth it," Muir said. "This is a good outcome."

Cendoya was found in the same vicinity as Jack on Wednesday evening, conscious but "highly disoriented." Shoeless and dressed only in a pair of shorts and T-shirt, he too was flown out of the canyon by helicopter, Park said.

Sheriff's officials said it was not clear in the immediate aftermath of the rescues how the two hikers became separated.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Jack's father, Russ Jack, as saying that Cendoya had told authorities that his companion apparently had twisted her ankle and "could not keep up with Nicholas trying to get out of the brush."

Dr. Michael Ritter of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, said Cendoya was in "very serious condition" when he was admitted Wednesday night but was recovering on Thursday.

"Nick said the thing that kept him going was praying," Ritter said, adding that Cendoya had tried to keep warm overnight by covering himself with brush.

Cendoya and Jack, both college students, were said to be athletic and in good health but were inexperienced as hikers in Southern California's backcountry, Krause said.

The search for Jack resumed in earnest on Thursday morning, with dozens of rescue workers, some on horseback, concentrating in the vicinity of where Cendoya was found, Krause said.

Mild weather conditions, with overnight lows dipping into the low 50s Fahrenheit (about 10 Celsius), and relatively cool daytime temperatures, boded well for their survival, she added.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Eric Beech, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)