Have a plan. Write it down. Tell someone. These three little steps can save a life.
By Mary O’KEEFE
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept., with its search and rescue teams, has developed a hiking plan for those who venture out on hiking, or camping, adventures. It is an easy way to let others know about hiking plans and can offer insight for searchers in case anything goes wrong. It doesn’t matter if the planned hike is for a few hours or a few days.
Nicolas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, both from Costa Mesa, were lost for days in Trabuco Canyon. The recent search for the pair brought attention to how quickly things can go wrong, even for those planning a brief hike.
Family members received a phone call from Cendoya and Jack on Easter that they were lost and had no water. They attempted to pinpoint their position but then their cellphone died.
Both were found and are currently recovering from their injuries. Cendoya was found on Wednesday, April 4 and Jack was found the next day. They had become lost, separated and dehydrated, and hallucinated as they attempted to find their way back to their car.
Hundreds of volunteers and emergency responders searched for the OC hikers over the four days. Montrose Search and Rescue assisted three of those days and, in fact, was the team that found Jack.
On Thursday, a hiker phoned into the command center that he thought he heard a woman’s voice yelling. LASD Air 5 dropped MSR in the area where the cries were reportedly heard and they began to search.
The team was hiking through an area of 10-foot high, thick brush, said MSR member Mike Leum.
“It was obvious she wasn’t in the immediate vicinity,” Leum said.
The team then heard Jack’s cries for help. Because of the area, it was difficult to tell exactly where the voice was coming from, but the team narrowed it down to a particular canyon.
Searchers split up, with some members going down the side of a canyon and others going up.
“There were a series of dry waterfalls we had to [climb] up,” Leum said.
At one point, Leum had lost verbal contact.
“I thought, oh no, I had taken the wrong canyon,” he recalled.
But the team hadn’t. Jack’s cries for help were heard again.
“We still couldn’t identify where it was coming from,” he said. “I climbed on a ridge line and heard her voice really clearly. She seemed so close, but I still couldn’t see her. I asked her if she could see me and she said, ‘Yes.’”
But Leum still couldn’t see Jack. He asked her to wave her arms; she told him she could only move one.
“I then saw just the palm of her hand,” he said.
The team that was below then climbed up to find her. MSR members Fred Wenzel and Doug Cramoline and Air 5 medic Jim Moss reached Jack. She was airlifted into the helicopter and transported to the hospital.
The joint search effort involved many agencies and wasn’t without injury to the rescuers. An Orange County reserve deputy fell as he was searching for the two teens.
“He is now in good condition but still in the hospital,” said Gail Krause, OCSD spokeswoman.
MSR members are called out to many rescues annually and any information on where a hiker was planning to go is valuable, even if that hiker, like the OC pair, had gone off the trails.
Another missing hiker, Ertug Ergun, 33, from Turkey, did not return after a weekend hike. He had not filled out a hiking plan and in fact had not told anyone exactly where he was hiking. The only reason rescuers knew where to search was finding his abandoned vehicle in a parking lot at the Stonyvale Picnic area. Unfortunately his body was found at the bottom of a waterfall after an exhaustive search.
The Sheriff’s Dept. advises filling out a hiking plan and giving it to a responsible person who will in turn give it to rescuers in the event the hiker doesn’t return when planned. It not only helps to locate those who are lost while hiking but for hikers who are injured, rescuers can get to them earlier.
Copies of the hiking plan are available at www.cvweekly.com/NEWS or at www.lasd.org and type hiking plan in the search bar.