Missing Hikers Rescued But Questions Remain

Sky News US Team
Missing Hikers Rescued But Questions Remain

Both of the young hikers missing for days in the Cleveland National Forest in California are recovering after being rescued, but many questions remain about their ordeal.

Orange County Sheriff's Lt Jason Park said Kyndall Jack was found on Thursday morning after a searcher heard her calling out for help.

The 18-year-old had no shoes, was having trouble breathing and was severely disoriented from dehydration. 

The first thing she asked was what year it was, said Los Angeles County Reserve Deputy Fred Wenzel.

Then, she asked for her mother. She did not even remember going hiking.

"She was filthy from head to toe, her lips were black with dirt, her eyes were barely open and she had on no shoes," said sheriff's Deputy Jim Moss, a paramedic who was dropped to her by helicopter and airlifted her to safety in a harness.

"She was just kind of clinging to the ledge on the cliff side, going in and out of consciousness."

Her rescuers were afraid to give her water because she had so much dirt in her mouth she could choke, Wenzel said.

"She was limp and almost lifeless. I was just holding her as the crew chief brought us up and just holding onto her, bringing her in," Officer Moss added.

A volunteer searcher fell 60ft into a canyon during the rescue and suffered a head injury.

He is in a serious condition but expected to survive.

Ms Jack's walking companion, 19-year-old Nicholas Cendoya, was picked up on Wednesday evening.

The two had become separated sometime on Sunday night, but were both found less than a mile from their car.

They were "very, very close" to one another, although they did not know it, said Lt Jason Park, an Orange County sheriff's spokesman.

Ms Jack's father, Russ Jack, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr Cendoya said she could not keep up with him - possibly because of a twisted ankle.

He said he mistakenly thought Ms Jack had already been rescued.

"The most important thing is that she has been found, and Nicholas has been found and they are well," Lt Park said.

Mr Cendoya talked to paramedics but struggled to answer many questions about what had happened.

He was as equally disoriented and also barefoot when he was found.

He is now recovering in hospital and is said to be in serious but stable condition.

The couple had called for help on Sunday night a few hours after setting out for what should have been an easy day hike on the Holy Jim Trail.

But their mobile phones died before anyone could pinpoint their location.

The rocky, tree-shaded dirt trail leads to a waterfall on a 2.8-mile round trip and is popular with day hikers.

However the area is blanketed with heavy brush and a creek running through it.

Many details of the pair's ordeal remain a mystery and officials hope to question them more closely once they are rested and more stable.

It is unclear, for example, why they went off the well-marked trail and how much water they had with them.

It is also unclear exactly when and how they got separated.