LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A college student lost since Sunday in a California mountain canyon was rescued and flown to a hospital on Thursday, a day after her hiking companion was found dazed and dehydrated in a nearby ravine, authorities said.
A member of the Orange County sheriff’s search team fell and suffered a severe head injury as rescuers scrambled to reach 18-year-old Kyndall Jack in the rugged, heavily wooded canyon, sheriff’s Lieutenant Jason Park said.
Rescuers were reported to have been drawn by Jack’s cries for help to the spot where the California State University student was found shortly before noon local time. Her condition was not immediately made clear.
She was then hoisted into a helicopter for a flight to the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center. The reserve sheriff’s deputy who was hurt was also hospitalized.
Orange County Fire Authority Captain John Muir told reporters that Jack’s relatives were elated by news that she was found alive.
“They cried, they hugged us, thanked us immensely, and it was worth it,” Muir said. “This is a good outcome.”
Jack’s friend, Nicholas Cendoya, 19, was found on Wednesday evening, conscious but “highly disoriented,” by hikers who then alerted authorities to his location, and he too was flown out of the canyon by helicopter.
The pair had each ended up less than a mile from where they had parked their car on Sunday in the Trabuco Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Park said.
They set out for a hike through the Holy Jim Canyon, an area characterized by rugged terrain, dense brush and waterfalls, but called authorities on a cellphone after dark to say they were lost, sheriff’s spokeswoman Gail Krause told Reuters.
The cellphone’s batteries went dead before authorities could get an accurate fix on its signal to pinpoint the pair’s precise location, Krause said. It was not clear how Cendoya and Jack had become separated.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Jack’s father, Russ Jack, as saying that Cendoya had told authorities that his companion apparently had twisted her ankle and “could not keep up with Nicholas trying to get out of the brush.”
Dr Michael Ritter of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, said Cendoya, who attends school at Orange Coast College, was in “very serious condition” when he was admitted Wednesday night but was recovering on Thursday.
“Nick said the thing that kept him going was praying,” Ritter said, adding that Cendoya had tried to keep warm overnight by covering himself with brush.
Both Cendoya and Jack were said to be athletic and in good health but were inexperienced as hikers in Southern California’s backcountry, Krause said.
The search for Jack resumed in earnest on Thursday morning, with about 40 rescue workers, some on horseback, concentrating in the vicinity of where Cendoya was found, Krause said.
Mild weather conditions, with overnight lows dipping into the low-50s Fahrenheit (about 10 Celsius), and relatively cool daytime temperatures, boded well for their survival, she added.
Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Eric Beech and Cynthia Johnston