RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (AP) — Rescuers who plucked a young woman on Thursday from a steep, rocky canyon wall said she was exhausted, had trouble breathing and likely could not have survived much longer than another day in the rugged Southern California wilderness.
Kyndall Jack, 18, was rescued from a near-vertical wall in Falls Canyon in Cleveland National Forest, five days after she got lost on a day hike with a friend.
"She was kind of clinging to the ledge on the cliff side, kind of going in and out of consciousness," said Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Jim Moss, a paramedic who treated her. "We climbed up to her and could see she was in a lot of pain, obviously completely dehydrated and very weak.
"She wouldn't have made it much longer. She's really lucky," he told The Associated Press in an interview shortly after the rescue.
Barely able to move, Jack had managed to scream on and off for 90 minutes, shouting at times, "I'm here, I'm here," as rescuers moved toward her.
It was her screams that brought searchers to her hours after they found her hiking companion, 19-year-old Nicolas Cendoya on Wednesday night, said Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jason Park.
"We started to close in. We heard the voice from all our ground crews and surrounded it and made contact with her." he said. "It was very difficult to extract her."
A reserve deputy aiding the effort suffered a head injury when he fell 60 feet down the canyon. He was also flown to a hospital. His name was not released and his condition was not immediately known.
After rescuers found Jack they strapped her into a harness and lifted her into a helicopter that took her to a hospital.
She and Cendoya had driven to the area on Easter Sunday for what was supposed to be a short, easy day hike through a picturesque canyon to a waterfall. The area is part of the rugged forest that sprawls across 720 miles of Southern California.
Before his cellphone's battery died, Cendoya was able to make a 911 call Sunday telling authorities the couple had gotten lost and were in distress.
"He was panting and said, 'We're out of water.' You could hear Kyndall in the background," said Orange County fire Capt. Jon Muir. "He said, 'I think we're about a mile or two from the car,' and he was right about the distance but in totally the wrong direction."
Cendoya was found Wednesday night in shorts and a shirt but missing his shoes. He was flown to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where doctors said he was being treated for severe dehydration, scratches and bruises. He was expected to remain for several days.
Park said Cendoya was "extremely confused and disoriented," when he was found less than a mile from the pair's car, giving an added urgency to the effort to find his friend.
Jack was found in similar condition, dressed in a pair of dirty athletic shorts, a hoodie and socks, having also lost her shoes.