Searchers get lost while looking for missing teens

The search for two Costa Mesa teens who went missing while hiking in Trabuco Canyon stretched into a third day Wednesday, as dozens of civilian volunteers continued to scour the area — a pair of whom got lost themselves.

Two searchers out looking for Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicholas Cendoya, 19, were airlifted out of the canyon, said Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Jason Park.

The pair called 911 sometime between 3 and 4 p.m., he said, and dispatchers were able to pass on their coordinates to a helicopter.

"They weren't injured," Park added. "Just lost." He said he didn't have any information on the searchers' identities or ages.

Law enforcement officials can't condone rescue efforts by friends and families, but they have advised volunteers to come prepared with water, a compass and adequate supplies if they do plan to hike what can be tough terrain.

As of about 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, Park said helicopters would be in the air all night searching, and that OCSD Search and Rescue teams would be out "at first light."

Former police helicopter pilots also joined in the hunt Wednesday.

Costa Mesa Police Officer Rob Dimel received a text message from Newport Beach businessman Peter Adderton offering the use of one of his private helicopters to look for the Jack and Cendoya.

Jack and Cendoya called authorities for help Sunday night saying they were disoriented, but lost the connection with 911 after their cell phone battery died.

Dimel, who was a pilot in Airborne Law Enforcement, or ABLE, a police helicopter program that was jointly run by Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, participated in the search. He was joined by Officers Ryan Walker, another former ABLE pilot, and Dana Potts, who is trained as a flight officer and observer, and volunteers with the Riverside Mountain Rescue unit, Dimel said.

"They're both Costa Mesa residents … It hits home," Walker said. "My skill set is flying and luckily my boss is very generous and said, 'Hey, help out.'"

Two Los Angeles Sheriff's Department helicopters searched with Costa Mesa police and their private chopper. As of 5 p.m. the Costa Mesa officers were refueling and heading back to continue the search along with Orange County Sheriff's Department, which will continue into the night, Dimel said.

The Costa Mesa officers had contacted OCSD to determine the best way to help, either as another set of eyes in the air relieving OCSD's helicopters or by bringing supplies to the command post in Trabuco Canyon. The crew left John Wayne Airport about noon.

One of the three helicopters was used on the Riverside side, according to Park. The Costa Mesa group concentrated on an area where searchers said they heard voices calling back when they called out the names of the two missing teens, Dimel said.

About 70 authorities from various agencies combed the area looking for the teens. Rescuers from across the Southern California area, including Riverside and San Bernardino sheriff's departments, Orange County Sheriff's Department reserves, Orange County Fire Authority and California Emergency Management Agency, among others, participated in the search.

About 4 a.m. Wednesday, authorities received a tip from a civilian volunteer that a flicker of light was spotted on a mountain side, according to OCSD Lt. Steve Gil. Rescuers identified the area and searched it but found no evidence of Cendoya and Jack, Gil said.

He said workers had searched cabins and as much of the mines as was safe, but hadn't found any indication that the teens were there.

Authorities said there was no evidence of foul play, or that the hike was a ruse and that they went elsewhere. Cloud cover over the past several days worked in the teens' favor, keeping temperatures relatively warm, although it delayed air searches.

OC Hiking Club President Suki Reed said her group was participating in the search. About 10:15 a.m. Wednesday she sent out an email to the club's 10,000 members asking for volunteers. She received hundreds of emails from people offering to hike the area at noon, Reed said.

Her club sent a group of 20 advanced hikers familiar with the terrain, she said. Those there reported the area being saturated with other hikers, some less prepared than others, according to Reed.

"I'm concerned," Reed said. "I'm hoping they are all very experienced hikers."

In a separate incident, two hikers hobbled by injury were airlifted from the area around Holy Jim Falls, Park said. That call came at around the same time as the call from the lost rescuers, he said, between 3 and 4 p.m.

Park said that a hiker had mentioned a back injury, but no further information on the condition of those hikers or their identities was available, other than they were not part of the search for Jack and Cendoya.

— Los Angeles Times Staff Writers Rick Rojas and Kate Mather, and Daily Pilot Staff Writer Jill Cowan contributed to this report.

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