A state legislative proposal unanimously approved Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors would allow governments to be reimbursed for search-and-rescue costs resulting from people displaying "wanton or reckless conduct."
The proposal specifies that the rescues must have been for people 16 and older who "act in violation of any federal or state law or local ordinance and necessitates the use of emergency services," according to a news release from the office of 3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
"Taxpayer-funded searches and rescues are intended for accidents, not for 'on purposes' that are a result of negligence or criminal activity," Spitzer said in a prepared statement. "Individuals who recklessly put themselves and others in danger should pay the cost for such rescues. Innocent taxpayers should not bear the burden of these exorbitant costs."
Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) said he will take the legislation to Sacramento.
"Communities should not be required to forfeit their emergency services funds due to one individual's thoughtless actions," Wagner said in a prepared statement, "and together, we will ensure that communities will once again be protected through reimbursement requirements."
The proposal comes after two Costa Mesa teens — Nicolas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18 — got lost in Trabuco Canyon during Easter weekend. Their wilderness hike gone awry prompted a multiday search that involved several law enforcement agencies and took 1,907 total hours before the two were found.
The seach ultimately cost authorities more than $160,000.
The pair are not being billed for the costs because each is a county resident.
Cendoya has since been charged with possession of methamphetamine. Authorities found 497 milligrams of the drug in his car as they were searching for him and Jack. After their rescue, the teenagers told the media that they felt delusional during the experience and, at times, had hallucinations.
"I was just out, unconscious," Cendoya said to reporters. "I can't even tell you when I woke up ... was in lucid dreams, lucid hallucinations, every single day."