A young woman who got lost Easter Sunday 2013 while hiking in Trabuco Canyon with a friend who later admitted to drug possession is being sued by a volunteer who fell and suffered spinal injuries, but the lawsuit does not name the young man with the drugs as a co-defendant.
On Easter Sunday of 2013, Costa Mesa's Nic Cendoya and Kyndall Jack, 19 and 18 at the time respectively, set out on a relatively easy hike through Cleveland National Forest. They made an emergency call via a cell phone that night informing they were lost but the phone's battery died.
Cendoya was found weak and dehydrated on his fourth night in the canyon, and Jack was in a similar condition when she was airlifted out late the next morning, April 4. Sheriff's deputies later disclosed they'd found methamphetamine in Cendoya's empty car in a parking lot shortly after responding to the rescue.
Jack "headed out unprepared and unqualified to a remote and dangerous mountain area with the intent to take hallucinogenic drugs, knowing the likelihood of becoming disoriented, lost and requiring the subject rescue," alleges the negligence lawsuit filed against her in Orange County Superior Court on June 16. Her "willful conduct of placing herself in a recklessly dangerous situation caused the subject injury and devastation to plaintiff" Nick Papageorge's (yes, haters from previous stories, that is how he spells it).
Papageorge's suffered a broken spine after falling down a 110-foot cliff. He ultimately had to have titanium screws put in his back. No amount of damages is specified in his suit, although his attorney Eric Dubin claims his client's medical expenses exceeded $500,000. Dubin told City News Service he is hopeful Jack has insurance that can cover a damage award.
The attorney declined to explain why Cendoya is not named as a defendant. He later pleaded guilty to possessing 497 milligrams of meth but, as a first-time offender, was allowed to enter a drug rehabilitation program to avoid jail time and have the conviction wiped from his record.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston also ruled in July 2013 that there was no legal basis to make Cendoya pay criminal restitution to Papageorge's, whose medical bills at the time were pegged at $350,000, and the Orange County Fire Authority, which sought $55,000 to cover rescue expenses. No evidence was presented proving Cendoya was on drugs, only that he had left meth in his car, Johnston reasoned.
Jack's own comments after being rescued may actually help Papageorge's side. Outside a hospital that treated her, she told reporters about hallucinating much of the time she was lost, eating "dirt and rocks," trying to drink water out of a straw that was actually a tree branch and thinking other branches were python snakes and other animals trying to eat her.
Many avid hikers who left comments with the Weekly's coverage of the rescue could not understand how someone sober could have gotten lost in that particular part of the canyon and begun hallucinating so quickly.