[UPDATED with Rescuers Put in Harm's Way:] Kyndall Jack and Nicholas Cendoya Saved
See Update No. 7 on page 3 about a recently concluded press conference giving a complete overview of the latest events in Trabuco Canyon.
See Update Nos. 3-6 on page 2 about the man being found alive, the search resuming for the woman, Kyndall Jack being found and airlifted out and how it all happened..
See Update Nos. 1- 2 on the next page about a search party page being set up on Facebook and the sheriff's department warning amateur searchers to have a plan.
Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, have been missing since last night.
Courtesy of the Orange County Sheriff's Department
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 1, 2:22 P.M.: Nicholas Cendoya and Kyndall Jack went hiking at Trabuco Canyon before the Orange County Sheriff's Department was called Sunday night about the missing Costa Mesa pair. Deputies contacted them but their cell phone battery died when they estimated to be about a mile from the vehicle that brought them to the canyon. No one's heard from them since.
Deputies tried to reach the pair by foot but were unsuccessful, and an initial request for assistance from the air had to be denied due to low clouds, according to the sheriff's department.
Air support has since been deployed as has a bloodhound, according to deputies, who ask anyone with information on the whereabouts of the two to call 714.647.7000.
UPDATE NO. 1, APRIL 2, 3:34 P.M.: A page called "Costa Mesa Search Party" has been set up on Facebook to hopefully help find and pass along information about Nicholas Cendoya and Kyndall Jack, who are still missing in the Cleveland National Forest.
"Any help from our CMHS family would be greatly appreciated," reads the page description, a reference to Costa Mesa High School, which is part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Incidentally, the school district today released a statement disclosing Kyndall Jack's mother, Dawn, is a Corona del Mar High School employee.
After hiking together in Holy Jim Canyon, the teens texted around 8:30 p.m. Sunday they were lost but the battery on their cell phone went dead and the sheriff's department was unable to get a "ping" off it to determine the pair's location.
The missing teens indicated they believed they were about a mile from their vehicle, which has since been located by ground searchers. Besides law enforcement and civilians on foot, the search is relying on aircraft, bloodhounds and equestrian teams.
UPDATE NO. 2, APRIL 2, 5:29 P.M.: Responding to an "outpouring of community support" to help in the search for the two teen hikers, the Orange County Sheriff's Department is warning anyone venturing into Cleveland National Forest to have a plan first.
"When hiking in wilderness areas, be prepared for the unexpected," reads a statement from the agency. "Tell family and friends what your plans are and provide a list of who will be going with you. Wear appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water and food, have a map/compass/GPS, fully charge your mobile phone, pack a whistle and a flashlight."
Deputies direct those seeking more information on how to prepare for a hike to visit the Center for Disease Control's website: http://www.cdc.gov/family/camping/.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Nicholas Cendoya and Kyndall Jack is urged to call the sheriff's department at 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips can be left via 855-TIP-OCCS or at www.occrimestoppers.org.
UPDATE NO. 3, APRIL 3, 10:36 P.M.: Nicholas Cendoya was found alive in Trabuco Canyon tonight, according to Orange County Fire Authority officials who described him as "dehydrated and confused."
The 19-year-old was taken to a hospital, his friends report on Facebook. [*Ages corrected throughout.]
Cendoya's 18-year-old companion, Kyndall Jack, remains missing but there were several reports today of a woman's voice being heard yelling for help today somewhere in the rugged canyons.
The search resumed with gusto this morning for Kyndall Jack.
UPDATE NO. 4, APRIL 4, 8:46 A.M.: After a night of helicopters scouring Trabuco Canyon with heat-seeking visual technology, the ground search resumed before dawn this morning for Kyndall Jack, who has now spent four nights in the Cleveland National Forest.
The rescue of her hiking partner Nicholas Cendoya has boosted the optimism of searchers, according to Orange County sheriff's officials. A hiker found the 19-year-old in shoulder-high brush before 8 p.m. Wednesday and alerted a crew of firefighters who were not part of the search but training nearby.
He was parched and confused when he was found about a half-mile south of where most of the search has been concentrated. Television news footage showed him without shirt and pants--he'd only gone up in boardshorts for a day hike--as he was being helped by a paramedics to a gurney.
Cendoya was taken to Mission Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition this morning. Doctors expressed confidence he'll be fine. He'd foraged in the woods for food and water.
In the hills and at the hospital, Cendoya has talked with rescuers about Jack's whereabouts, but they say he has been confused. He apparently saw her last Monday on a ridge near Holy Jim Falls.
But, to give an idea of how difficult it is to spot people in the brush, even so close to where the search has been focused, two volunteers got lost themselves Wednesday afternoon and had to be airlifted out of the canyons. A helicopter over Cendoya after he had been found that night lost sight of him a few times.
UPDATE NO. 5, APRIL 4, 11:55 A.M.: Law enforcement scanner chatter around 11 a.m. reported a "woman in distress" in a rugged area of Trabuco Canyon.
Now, television news stations are reporting it's Kyndall Jack. Images shot from an overhead helicopter show two rescuers helping someone in a wooded hillside.
Jack's father had told reporters this morning that Nicholas Cendoya revealed the young woman may have twisted her ankle, but law enforcement would not confirm that.
UPDATE NO. 6, APRIL 4, 12:25 P.M.: An unidentified hiker or volunteer searcher who heard a woman's voice yelling for help is being credited with Kyndall Jack being found on a rugged Trabuco Canyon hillside late this morning.
It was such a precarious perch that a reserve sheriff's deputy closing in on the young woman fell and suffered a head injury that required having to be airlifted out of the canyon at the same time as Jack, who was shown on television news video lying with her legs awkwardly crossed. Wearing shorts, she could be seen moving, and at a just-concluded press conference an Orange County sheriff's spokesman said she was "alive and conscious."
Her condition is not yet known; she was later seen being pushed on a gurney into UCI Medical Center in Orange. The sheriff's spokesman could not confirm earlier reports of her having suffered an ankle injury.
He said the injured reserve deputy from his department was working for free searching the canyon terrain. The location where Jack was found was described as very close to where Nicholas Cendoya was discovered in shoulder-high brush Wednesday afternoon.
Jack's family was said to be notified and overjoyed by the news, as were rescuers and volunteers spending their fifth day in the forest. Noting that both teens were found after tips from civilians, KNBC/Channel 4's veteran Orange County reporter Vickie Vargas asked the sheriff's deputy if this proves it was helpful to flood Trabuco Canyon with volunteers.
"I think at this point no one's going to be judgmental of how we found her," he answered to laughs from reporters.
UPDATE NO. 7, APRIL 4, 3:01 P.M.: The theme of a just concluded press conference in Trabuco Canyon was to encourage people to continue coming to and enjoying the rugged terrain, waterfalls and trails--so long as they are prepared.
The meeting was led by Orange County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jason Park, with Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Capt. John Muir at his side. Behind them were support officers from those agencies as well as the Anaheim Police Department, California Emergency Management Association, California Highway Patrol, Civilian Air Patrol, Costa Mesa Police Department, Cypress Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Orange County Parks and Rangers, Riverside County Sheriff's Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Ventura County Sheriff's Department and two other agencies--including one that uses search dogs--whose names I missed.
The point of mentioning all those was not only to thank those sworn officers, as well as hundreds of volunteers, for spending days and nights and overnights in Trabuco Canyon. It illustrates what kind of resources were poured into the area to find two lost teen hikers.
The latest: Cendoya and Jack are in stable condition and expected to recover. Cendoya is covered in scratches and abrasions. He told hospital staff he got separated from Jack Sunday night.
An unidentified, male, reserve Orange County deputy suffered serious injuries when he fell 60 feet trying to reach Jack. He is in intensive care at Mission Hospital, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening, according to Park. (At a later press conference, another sheriff's spokesperson said the reserve is in serious condition, but he can move his arms and legs and is alert.)
The deputy was one of more than 100 reserves who were working on their own time, with their own gear, based on volunteer training they received without compensation "so they can be used in critical times like today," Park had mentioned.
Muir said what his agency learned for the past several days is hikers need to plan and prepare before venturing into the canyons, bringing plenty of food and water, dressing appropriately, carrying working communication devices, telling non-hikers before departing for the canyon where exactly they are going and to only stay on the main trails.
He thanked the Cendoya and Jack families, as well as the media, for being "very patient with us."
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, whose district includes the area that he's also represented in various elected capacities over the past 15 years, was more pointed in his comments about the canyon's day users.
"It's a lovely place, but it's a very dangerous place," he said. "There are waterfalls and places only accessible by foot and folklore and legends." He then said the teens' "curiosity" or possible lack of "personal responsibility" may have been the cause of them getting lost. "This place burns and floods," he said, adding people should still come and enjoy the area. (Well, with that kind of advertisement . . .)
Spitzer added everyone is praying for the fallen reserve deputy, who along with those who were standing behind the career politician "put their lives at risk for people who are not thinking clearly to have a good time. We want people to enjoy it, use it, but be very careful."
He said many people put themselves in harm's way and many resources were poured into ensuring "Nick and Kyndall . . . have their future ahead of them."
The general areas where both teens were found, which were pretty close to one another, had been searched, but officials explained the brush made it difficult to find them. The first crew to get within 10 feet of Cendoya still had to cut through brush before finally seeing him, Park noted.
The sheriff's spokesman repeated that civilian hikers provided the tip that led to Cendoya, but he corrected earlier reports that volunteers were the first to hear Jack's screams for help this morning. Park said sworn officers on the rescue team--from the sheriff's departments of Ventura and Los Angeles counties--heard her first. It was an LA County helicopter that airlifted her out of the canyon.
Park predicted both teens will come through this fine . . . quite fortunately.
"This is a complicated environment," he said, "and before you know it you're lost."
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