RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (AP) — Rescuers who plucked a young woman on Thursday from a steep, rocky canyon wall said she was exhausted, had trouble breathing and likely could not have survived much longer than another day in the rugged Southern California wilderness.
Kyndall Jack, 18, was rescued from a near-vertical wall in Falls Canyon in Cleveland National Forest, five days after she got lost on a day hike with a friend.
"She was kind of clinging to the ledge on the cliff side, kind of going in and out of consciousness," said Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Jim Moss, a paramedic who treated her. "We climbed up to her and could see she was in a lot of pain, obviously completely dehydrated and very weak.
"She wouldn't have made it much longer. She's really lucky," he told The Associated Press in an interview shortly after the rescue.
Barely able to move, Jack had managed to scream on and off for 90 minutes, shouting at times, "I'm here, I'm here," as rescuers moved toward her.
It was her screams that brought searchers to her hours after they found her hiking companion, 19-year-old Nicolas Cendoya on Wednesday night, said Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jason Park.
"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. His name was not released and his condition was not immediately known.
After rescuers found Jack they strapped her into a harness and lifted her into a helicopter that took her to a hospital.
She 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 forest that sprawls across 720 miles of Southern California.
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."
Cendoya was found Wednesday night in shorts and a shirt but missing his shoes. He was flown to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where doctors said he was being treated for severe dehydration, scratches and bruises. He was expected to remain for several days.
Park said 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.
Jack was found in similar condition, dressed in a pair of dirty athletic shorts, a hoodie and socks, having also lost her shoes.
Her rescuers said she couldn't remember what day it was or even that she had gone hiking. She had no idea how she had gotten on to the steep, rocky canyon outcropping where they found her.
She was suffering from low blood pressure, shortness of breath and had pain in both legs and one hand.
Despite that, she suffered no major internal injuries and was listed in good condition at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, said hospital spokesman John Murray.
Like Cendoya, she was being treated for dehydration and was expected to be hospitalized for several days.
At Mission Hospital, Dr. Michael Ritter told reporters Cendoya 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.
Cendoya told doctors he and Jack 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. Jack was found nearby.
The area is 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," Park said.
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. Two volunteer searchers got lost themselves and had to be flown out Wednesday afternoon.
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. Park warned, however, that it's very easy to get lost in the heavy brush and hikers who venture in should be prepared with plenty of food, water and proper clothing.
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, Andrew Dalton, Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon contributed to this story from Los Angeles.
- Society & Culture
- Disasters & Accidents