Search grows for missing hikers

TRABUCO CANYON — About 20 searchers were set to be deployed overnight Tuesday to continue looking for two missing hikers from Costa Mesa, after hundreds of friends and family had shown up throughout the day to help.

Rescue workers from various agencies will return to Trabuco Canyon in full force Wednesday morning, said Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Erin Giudice.

Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, called authorities about 8:25 p.m. Sunday, saying they were lost but thought they were about a mile away from their car, according to the Sheriff's Department. Their cell phone battery apparently died after the call.

Giudice said Tuesday afternoon that she thinks the two are alive but probably hurt.

"If these two were ambulatory, I believe they would have walked out," she said.

Bloodhounds had picked up Jack's and Cendoya's scents early Monday and again late that night, officials said. On Tuesday afternoon, rescuers combed through a 2-mile arc from the hikers' car, focusing efforts on where their scents were last found.

"Because of the time frame it's gone on, we want to find these two tonight," Giudice said.

Authorities said they were concerned about heat and cold stress, but the cloud cover has worked in the couple's favor, keeping temperatures relatively warm at night in the low 50s.

"These are very survivable conditions," said Orange County Sheriff's Department Reserve Lt. Chuck Williams. "That's what we pray for."

But officials say Jack and Cendoya may be in need of water and at an altitude where they won't find any.

Williams said the family told authorities the pair don't have any health problems and don't take any prescription drugs.

He said he is surprised rescuers haven't yet found the two hikers.

About 60 personnel from various agencies, including the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the California Emergency Management Agency, have combed the area.

The U.S. Forest Service gave permission to cut a brushy area on a mountain peak north of Live Oak Canyon Trail to land a helicopter, said Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Jon Muir.

About four Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue personnel and two dogs and their handlers were dropped between Falls Canyon and the Old Camp area, northwest of the pair's car, to search from the top down, Giudice said.

The area was chosen because of a nearby cell phone tower that was pinged when Jack and Cendoya called, she said.

Orange County Fire Authority had a crew of about 13 or 14 searching the area near the car, Muir said.

Hikers and people on horseback also looked for footprints Tuesday, Williams said.


'Looking for any signs'

Hundreds have shown up to search for Jack and Cendoya, according to a family friend.

"We're just walking and looking for any signs," said Angela Jackson-Brunning, who is friends with Jack's mom, Dawn Jack.

The family is coping right now, Jackson-Brunning said.

The Jack family is from the Mesa del Mar neighborhood, school board trustee Katrina Foley said in a text message to friends. Dawn Jack is a classified employee at Corona del Mar High School, according to the message and an email from school district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

Dozens of teens — some wearing Estancia High School sweaters and at least one in Costa Mesa High School gear — walked up to the trail head, while others headed up in SUVs and trucks.

Dawn Jack had sent out a text message to friends earlier Tuesday, seeking help in searching for the two Mesa alums, according to Foley.

Cendoya played football and Jack played volleyball when they attended Mesa. A marquee outside the school read, "Mesa loves alumni Kyndall Jack and Nic Cendoya — We are thinking of you."

"N-MUSD wishes to extend its support to the families and the search efforts for a quick and safe return of Kyndall and Nicholas," Boss' email read.

A Facebook page called Costa Mesa Search Party was created and many people posted to coordinate rides to the trail head.

Two of Jack's friends remained hopeful Tuesday afternoon, after searching since about 11 a.m.

Vanessa Granados, of Irvine, said Jack has been one of her best friends for eight years.

"She's literally like my little sister," Granados said. They know each other through dance.

Jack wasn't a big hiker, she said.

"I mean it wasn't like one of her top things to do," Granados said. Sunday's hike "was probably a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing."

It was probably Jack's first time in the area, she said.

Granados said she's "upset, scared [and] worried," but feels comforted that so many people have come out to help.

"I know a lot of people care about her," she said.

Granados said she has gone off the trails and high into the mountain area looking for her friend.

Joonee Evidente said he knows Jack from the Lokelani's Rhythm of the Islands Polynesian dance studio in Huntington Beach. They've been friends since 2008.

He said he is "hopeful. Worried definitely, but hopeful."


'Aggressive' terrain

Orange County Sheriff's Department officials said they don't condone the search efforts by friends and family but that if people want to search they should have water, a compass and a map and they shouldn't stray off the trail or hike after dark.

"It's a blessing on one level they want to come in and help," Williams said. "What I want to communicate clearly is that they need to be prepared."

Authorities don't want volunteers getting hurt or lost and taking resources away from the search, he added.

One Sheriff's Department rescuer was injured after slipping and cutting his hand on a branch. He was treated for minor injuries at the Trabuco Canyon Fire Station.

Williams called the area "very aggressive" and said it would take the average person two to three hours to complete the trail.

"If you get off the trail you will quickly be in waist-high brush," he said, adding that there is also a loose rocky area.

The Sheriff's Department asks that anyone with information about the whereabouts of the two missing hikers call (714) 647-7000.

— Editors Steve Virgen, Alicia Lopez and Alisha Gomez contributed to this report.

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