The Norman Transcript

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April 4, 2013

Search for California hikers fruitless; hope not lost

NORMAN — RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. — Rescuers working in sometimes dangerously rugged terrain combed Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest for two lost hikers late Wednesday, but the third day of searching had proved fruitless as darkness fell.

There was no evidence of foul play and authorities believe the teens are in the area, in part because a 911 call made before their mobile phone died was traced to a cell tower near the location, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. John Muir.

“Their probability for survival is good,” he said, adding that the nights have been mild and the days not too hot.

“We’re not stopping until we find them.”

So far, nothing has been found in the area where mountain bikers glimpsed what they believed to be a light in heavy brush Tuesday night off of a trail, he said.

The aerial search was to end at nightfall Wednesday but would resume today at first light, Muir said.

Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, were last heard from Sunday night when they called for help on a cellphone. The phone’s battery later died.

The two are believed to have gone off trail near Holy Jim Trail, a tree-lined dirt path along a creek that leads to a waterfall and is popular with day hikers.

In the call, they said they were about a mile from their car, which was parked at a trailhead, but rescuers have expanded the search.

“When you’re disoriented because you’re out of breath and tired and you think you’re 1 mile away, you could be potentially 3 or 4 miles away,” Muir said. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.”

It was unclear whether the lost hikers carried water and Kyndall’s father, Russ Jack, said he worried that after three days the pair might be dehydrated. But he still has hope.

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