Two teenage girls out on a late-night double date were gang-raped and their young boyfriends savagely kicked and beaten with a rock when a group of five men confronted them in a desolate stretch of Black Star Canyon, authorities said late Wednesday.
One of the boys suffered a fractured skull before the men drove the girls--ages 13 and 15--to a rock quarry in the rugged hills east of Orange and sexually assaulted them, Orange County sheriff's officials said.
The attack early Tuesday morning lasted about an hour, until the men finally drove away, threatening to return and kill the girls if they went to the police, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.
Left behind in the canyon, the boys dragged themselves to a main road and flagged down motorists until one stopped to help. A rescue team of sheriff's deputies found the girls wandering near Lake Irvine, covered only in rags and cardboard that they had found in the scrub.
"Their sense of survival must have been extraordinary. . . . This was a heinous crime," Amormino said.
One of the boys, a 17-year-old, remained in a local hospital's intensive care unit in very serious condition, officials said, after suffering major head injuries. The other boy, 16, was treated at a hospital and released.
Investigators withheld the identities of all four victims because they are juveniles but said the girls are from Tustin and the boys from Mission Viejo.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, detectives canvassed the canyon neighborhood and gas stations in the area in the hope that someone might have seen the five men. The victims described their assailants as Latino, in their late teens or early 20s, three of them with shaved heads.
The assault marks a rare episode of serious violence in a rustic area known to attract a mix of nocturnal hikers, drinkers and couples looking for a romantic hideaway.
"It's a beautiful area during the day but dangerous at night because it's so desolate," Amormino said. "There's no phone there. If you happen to get a flat tire or something worse, help is a long way away."
The youngsters left their homes without their parents' knowledge, sheriff's officials said, and went to a mall. Just after midnight they drove into the canyon, parked at the end of the road and walked into the brush.
About an hour later, they returned to the car and saw that its windows had been smashed. Suddenly five men walked toward them.
The two groups exchanged words, and the men suddenly attacked the two boys, sheriff's officials said. The assailants then split up, putting the girls in the back seat of their own car and taking the car the youths had arrived in.
They drove about half a mile to the quarry, near Black Star Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads, where they sexually assaulted the girls before driving to an isolated area and dumping them.
Eventually, the girls reached a pay phone and called 911.
Their boyfriends staggered about half a mile to Santiago Canyon Road, where a motorist stopped and called police.