LOS ANGELES – One of two hikers missing in the Trabuco Canyon area of Orange County since Easter Sunday was found alive Wednesday night, authorities said.
Nicholas Cendoya, 19, was was being taken to a trauma center, authorities said. Search crews had not found his hiking partner, Kyndall Jack, 18, but were scouring the area.
Cendoya was “dehydrated and very confused,” Lt. Jason Park of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told The Times. Cendoya was found about half a mile from where the two had parked their vehicle.
“We’re confident that we will find Kyndall,” Park said.
The Costa Mesa residents have been the subject of intense search efforts by officials and volunteers on the ground and in the air.
Jack and Cendoya got lost Easter Sunday, telling authorities by cellphone late that evening that they were about a mile from their car in Holy Jim Canyon. But their phone lost power soon afterward, and no contact had been made since.
Bloodhounds picked up Jack and Cendoya’s scents early Monday and again late Monday night, officials said. Tuesday afternoon, rescuers combed through a two-mile arc from the hikers’ car, focusing efforts where the dogs had last found the scents.
The rocky, tree-shaded dirt trail the two took leads to a waterfall. The 2.8-mile round trip is popular with day hikers. Its difficulty is listed as moderate to serious on a U.S. Forest Service website. Jack and Cendoya, however, “did not keep to the trail,” Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Erin Guidice said.
Nicholas Cendoya, 19, is being airlifted out of a canyon and will be taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.
The pair contacted authorities via cellphone around 8:30 p.m. Sunday asking for help.
They told deputies they believed they were about a mile from their car, but they couldn’t find their way back.
Authorities have located their car, a green BMW, but so far have not been able to locate the hikers.
Their cellphone battery died before authorities were able to get an accurate GPS location for the pair.
At around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, search volunteer Don Morrison said he and some others noticed nine to 12 tiny sparks — light from a cigarette lighter.
They called the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which sent out two units.
They didn’t see the light when they arrived, but authorities believe it is a positive sign. They were planning to focus the airship on that area after daybreak.
Hundreds of friends and family have turned out to join in the search for Cendoya and Jack.
Search and rescue vans full of people arrived at the command post on Tuesday, including dozens of teenagers.
A Facebook page called Costa Mesa Search Party has since been created, with many posting to coordinate rides to the trail head.
More than 50 search and rescue crews with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the O.C. Fire Authority searched on foot and in the air.
Even strangers have pitched in to help, hiking through the steep terrain crowded with thick brush and trees.
Crews found clothing items on the trail — a bandana and a pair of jeans — but it was determined they don’t belong to the missing hikers.
A clue more promising — investigators say a K9 unit picked up a scent near Holy Jim Canyon.
Search crews have since concentrated their efforts in that area. Authorities say they believe the teens are still alive.
“I believe they took a detour, I believe they did get off the trail and that’s where the trouble started,” said Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Erin Guidice.