TRABUCO CANYON — An 18-year-old Costa Mesa hiker who was missing for four nights was airlifted to an area hospital after a hiker discovered her Thursday morning, officials said.
Kyndall Jack was found in a dense brushy area in Trabuco Canyon, according to KTLA footage that showed two rescuers repelling down into the area on the side of a canyon and making contact with the teen.
Jack was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, according to John Murray, a spokesman for the hospital. Her condition was not immediately known.
One rescuer suffered a head injury during efforts to find Jack, and at one point his injuries took precedent over rescue efforts because of the seriousness of his injuries, officials said.
Jack’s discovery originated from a hiker hearing a distressed female voice calling for help, authorities said. There is no indication the hiker was part of the search.
Lt. Jason Park with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department called the discovery “a tremendous victory.”
Access to the canyon was limited for volunteer searchers Thursday because at least a dozen separate incidents had interfered with search efforts Wednesday, according to Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Jon Muir.
Nicolas Cendoya, 19, was rescued about 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Prior to Jack’s rescue, her father, Russ Jack, told reporters his family was clearing a path to the spot where Cendoya was found using machetes. He said Cendoya guessed he hadn't seen Jack in one day, and his daughter may have hurt her ankle.
Volunteer searchers were asked to stay away earlier in the morning from Holy Jim Canyon because "it's gotten technical enough" to require trained people, according to Orange County Fire Authority division Chief Michael Boyle. Search dogs need the area to be relatively uncontaminated.
A sheriff's car and deputies monitored the entrance near Trabuco Flyers Club at Trabuco Canyon and Trabuco Creek Road. Only family and emergency personnel were allowed up near the searchers' staging area.
Boyle said search crews were energized by finding Cendoya.
"This place came alive last night," Boyle said.
"Finding him did not change the plan for today," he said. "It did not have any impact on the intensity or commitment of the search."
Officials, who had centered the search around the area where they found Cendoya, had remained hopeful and optomistic about finding Jack.
Jack and Cendoya may have separated after she twisted her ankle, according to Russ Jack.
He added that Cendoya, who was disoriented when he was found, said he thought she had already been rescued.
"Of course we're all kind of broke up," Russ Jack said. "That hurt us that they split up somehow. But apparently Kyndall has twisted her ankle or something and could not keep up with Nicolas trying to get out of the brush they're in."
Park said Cendoya was in stable condition, but could only provide limited information about Jack's whereabouts.
Cendoya told investigators he believed he and Jack had been separated since Sunday, Boyle said. The two had shared one small water bottle they had brought.
Friends had also kept positive.
James Zamora said his daughter dances with Jack and Jack's sister, and spent four hours Wednesday helping with the search calling out the missing teens' names near houses on the hillside.
On Thursday he had waited in an SUV near where sheriff's deputies turned away those who are not family.
Cendoya was up and talking early Thursday afternoon, according to Tamara Sharp, director of marketing for Mission Hospital where he is being treated. It’s unclear how long he’ll be in treatment, she said.
He is alert and speaking, “at the time [he was admitted] he was very focused on making sure Kyndall got found,” Sharp said.
She added that he had a few scratches on his arms and legs from trying to cover himself with branches to keep warm at night.
Earlier Boyle said Cendoya's injuries were mostly what would be expected from being in the brush and that there wasn't any evidence that he fell.
"He was pretty scratched up," but didn't have any broken bones, Boyle said. "His memory was challenged. He indicated that he thought he was in Newport Beach."
Cendoya was found in "extremely dense" brush by civilian hikers who made contact with a training team from the Orange County Fire Authority. He wasn't visible from overhead, and it looked like he may have been trying to go either up or down the ravine, Park said.
He was less than a mile away from his car, not far from a road area, but it was unlikely searchers passed by him before finding him, Park said. The search was prioritized in areas accessible on foot and in areas where hikers are known to go.
"He was not in a place you'd expect a hiker to go," he said.
Earlier reports said the teen was wearing only boardshorts, but other authorities say he also had a shirt on.
Park had said earlier that Cendoya "was extremely confused and extremely dehydrated. [He wasn't] even sure of his own name" when he was found.
He added that authorities tried tracing "pretty accurate" cell phone pings from the 911 call. While it was unclear whose cell phone was used, Cendoya made the call and Jack could be heard in the background. During the call, he told authorities she was trying to reach high ground.
Boyle didn't know if Cendoya had the phone on him when he was found.
How he got across Trabuco Creek Road, "that's the mystery," he said.
So far authorities don't have any indication that he was under the influence when they found him. Doctors say he may regain some memory of event.
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