Calif. hiker: 4 days missing felt like a dream

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm •  Published: April 8, 2013
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They realized as darkness fell that they were lost and nowhere near the mountaintop and Cendoya called 911 twice on his dying cellphone.

In the second call, he and Jack can be heard having a tense conversation as the operator tries to determine where exactly they are in the 720-square-mile national forest — a vast wilderness that runs smack up against the suburban comforts of southeastern Orange County.

"Yeah, we wandered off the trail. We wandered off the trail," Cendoya told the operator. "I don't even know if we'll make it to the morning because we have no water."

At one point, Jack can be heard in the background telling Cendoya there is something moving in the wilderness and at another point, she cries out for help as the operator tells the pair deputies are on foot searching for them.

"We don't hear them, but we screamed and my echo went out for miles," Cendoya says during the nine-minute call.

Jack said Monday that she panicked as the darkness closed in around them. She tried to climb a tree and use her lighter to provide a signal for rescuers, but she dropped it. She thinks she remembers fighting off some type of animal with Cendoya before the two began to slip in and out of consciousness — but that, too, could have been a dream.

"I started to get like an anxiety attack and I started throwing up and I just lost it. I just went in and out of consciousness after the 911 call," she said.

"We just kept telling each other, 'Don't close your eyes. Don't fall asleep,'" she said.

Jack vaguely remembers "scooting" down a steep embankment — likely the cliff where she was found — but she isn't sure when she did that and how she managed to cling to the rocks for so long.

The teen warned other hikers to pack more water and supplies and not stray off the trail.

She also said she'd like to thank two of her rescuers in person: The first reserve sheriff's deputy who reached her and the paramedic who airlifted her to safety in a harness.

Another Orange County reserve sheriff's deputy who participated in the rescue slipped and fell 10 feet, hitting his chest on a rock before falling another 50 feet and hitting his head. He suffered cuts to his head, a punctured lung, broken ribs and other injuries. He was released from intensive care over the weekend and upgraded to fair condition.