Hiker expresses gratitude

In a statement released Friday afternoon, one of the two Costa Mesa teens rescued from a hike gone wrong in Trabuco Canyon thanked the hundreds who staged the massive search for the pair and said he looked forward to seeing for himself that his hiking partner was recovering.

"I was so relieved to hear that Kyndall [Jack, 18] was found and will be OK," said Nicolas Cendoya, 19. "I can't wait to see her face-to-face and give her a big hug. I just want to see for myself that she's OK."

Cendoya and Jack, who headed into the scrubby wilds near Rancho Santa Margarita on Easter Sunday, got separated early into their nearly weeklong ordeal, he previously told authorities.

Cendoya was airlifted from the canyon Wednesday night. Jack was rescued late Thursday morning from a spot not far from where he was found.

"There are so many people to thank," Cendoya said. "I want to thank all those people who never stopped trying to find me and [Jack], especially Amanda and her friends, who were the ones to find me."

A group of hikers discovered Cendoya lying on a rugged hillside, nearly hidden by thick brush. They flagged down an Orange County Fire Authority reserve crew that was training nearby.

Officials have not identified those hikers.

In the statement released by Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo, where Cendoya was taken by helicopter, he also thanked his parents, hospital staff and "so many supporters I didn't even know I had."

He wished an Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy who plunged an estimated 60 feet and seriously injured his head during Jack's rescue "the best in his recovery."

"I also want to thank the firefighters who climbed up to save me," he added.

Cendoya echoed comments he made on Facebook while recovering at the hospital in crediting his faith with helping him make it without food or water for almost four days.

"The whole time I was lost, I felt the presence of Jesus and my friend, Carlos, who died last year of cancer," he said. "I felt they were both with me, inspiring me to stay alive."


Twitter: @jillcowan

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