RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (AP) — A sheriff’s rescue team followed the sounds of a screaming female voice Thursday to an almost vertical canyon wall where they found a teenager clinging to a rocky outcropping after going missing during a hike five days ago.
Kendall Jack, 18, was weak and dehydrated but conscious and responsive when searchers plucked her from a rocky outcropping halfway up the wall in some of Southern California’s most rugged backcountry.
A line was placed around her and she was hoisted into a helicopter and flown to a hospital. There was no information on possible injuries.
Jack’s screams led searchers to her in Falls Canyon hours after they found her hiking companion, 19-year-old Nicolas Cendoya, the night before, Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Jason Park said.
“We started to close in. We heard the voice from all our ground crews and surrounded it and made contact with her.” he said. “It was very difficult to extract her.”
A reserve deputy aiding the effort suffered a head injury when he fell 60 feet down the canyon. He was also flown to a hospital.
Jack and Cendoya had driven to the area on Easter Sunday for what was supposed to be a short, easy day hike through a picturesque canyon to a waterfall. The area is part of the rugged Cleveland National Forest, which sprawls across 720 miles of Southern California.
Searchers aided by a sheriff’s helicopter with infrared sensors stepped up their efforts to find Jack after Cendoya was located by another hiker in the same area on Wednesday night.
Cendoya was found dressed in shorts and a shirt but missing his shoes. He was flown to a hospital where doctors said he was being treated for severe dehydration, scratches and bruises.
Cendoya was “extremely confused and disoriented,” when he was found less than a mile from the pair’s car, giving an added urgency to the effort to find his friend.
Searchers returned to the forest before dawn.
Rescuers had flown Cendoya to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where Dr. Michael Ritter told reporters the teenager said he survived by taking shelter at night in heavy brush and passing his days by praying.
“He’s got a lot of faith in the Lord, which I think will help him to work his way through this,” Ritter said shortly before Jack was located. “And I think his recovery will be a lot faster if we can find Kyndall.”
Cendoya told doctors the two became separated sometime Sunday night.
He was found on a steep hill less than a mile from where the pair had left their car, but the brush was so thick that a person wouldn’t be able to see someone standing as close as five feet away, Park said.
The area is also just 500 feet from a dirt road that is fairly heavily traveled, but Park said Cendoya was so disoriented he likely wasn’t aware of that.
“He was in an area near where people were calling his name and he didn’t even know it. It just shows the extent of his disorientation,” Park said.
Before his cellphone’s battery died, Cendoya was able to make a 911 call Sunday telling authorities the couple had gotten lost and were in distress.
“He was panting and said, ‘We’re out of water.’ You could hear Kyndall in the background,” said Orange County fire Capt. Jon Muir. “He said, ‘I think we’re about a mile or two from the car,’ and he was right about the distance but in totally the wrong direction.”
Brush in the area was so dense that even after he was found, a helicopter dispatched to rescue him had trouble keeping track of where he was.
“When the rescuer was lowered he lost sight of him,” said Division Chief Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority.
Two volunteer searchers got lost themselves and had to be flown out Wednesday afternoon.
Although disoriented, Cendoya was able to share some information with authorities, according to Jack’s father, Russ Jack.
“Nicholas obviously was disoriented because of dehydration … he thought that Kyndall had already been rescued,” Jack’s father told the Los Angeles Times. “But apparently Kyndall has twisted her ankle or something and could not keep up with Nicholas trying to get out of the brush they’re in.”
Sheriff’s investigators planned to talk to Cendoya at length once he recovers further.
Ritter said he was being given intravenous fluids and was becoming more lucid. He was expected to remain hospitalized for several days.
Cendoya says on his Facebook page that he’s a 2011 graduate of Orange County’s Costa Mesa High School and a student at Orange Coast College. A number of photos show the athletic-looking young man working out and lifting weights.
He and Jack are believed to have gotten lost near near Holy Jim Trail, a tree-lined dirt path along a creek that leads to the waterfall.
The path is popular with day hikers, including families with children, and is not considered particularly difficult.
Several miles of road leading to it are all but impassable to traverse for vehicles without four-wheel drive, however, which requires many hikers to walk a good distance before they even get to the trailhead.
The area is in a section of forest in the Santa Ana Mountains that lie 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, Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon contributed to this story from Los Angeles.