Injured OC Search Volunteer Seeks $360,000 in Restitution from Found Hiker

The volunteer wants money to cover his massive medical bills after the missing hiker was charged with felony drug possession.

A volunteer injured during a successful search for two missing hikers in Orange County is seeking restitution to cover his $360,000 in medical bills from one of the hikers, who has since been charged with felony drug possession.

Volunteer Nick Papageorge's IV, 20, fell 110 feet, bouncing off of a cliff twice and crushing some of his vertebrae. He underwent surgery, and doctors placed titanium rods and 11 screws in his spine, he said. It was unclear how much of the cost would be covered by insurance.

The hikers, Nicolas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, were later found dehydrated, hallucinating and delirious. While Cendoya was missing on April 2, authorities found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in his car.

Under Marsy's Law, which provides rights to victims of crimes, he maybe able to seek restitution if Cendoya is convicted of the drug charges.

Cendoya, 19, appeared briefly in court on Wednesday but the arraignment was postponed until July at the request of the defense, said Orange County District Attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami.

Authorities have said that they could only attempt to recover the $160,000 cost for the massive search for Cendoya and his companion, 18-year-old Kyndall Jack, if a criminal charge was filed against the hikers.

The cost of the multiagency search included the services of six agencies.

Cendoya, who spoke to NBC4 recently, said he would help pay back the cost of the search if needed. He said he didn't want his parents to be burdened with the search costs, which he called "insane."

Asked if he was on drugs during the hike, Cendoya said "absolutely not."

Cendoya and Jack, both of Costa Mesa, had headed onto the popular trails of Holy Jim Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest on Easter only to get separated at night. They had entered the wilderness with a single water bottle and no warm clothing.

Lost for several days, the two were found separately by rescuers in dense brush on April 3 and April 4.

A reserve deputy was seriously injured during Kyndall's rescue after he fell 60 feet and hit his head.

Both Jack and Kyndall were found dehydrated, disoriented and covered in cuts and bruises -- but they suffered no major injuries. Each said they had hallucinated through much of their time in the steep canyon area.

"I was in lucid dreams and hallucinations for days. I could see the helicopters flying over me every day. When the firefighters came up to me, I couldn't even believe it," Cendoya said after his ordeal. "We weren't meant to die."

Contact Us