Friends Join Search for Missing Hikers in Cleveland National Forest

Two young hikers have been missing in the Holy Jim Canyon area since Sunday

The number of volunteers searching for a pair of Costa Mesa teens missing in Cleveland National Forest was so great that there was at times a kind of traffic jam on dirt trails.

Fellow graduates of Costa Mesa High School had descended on a hiking area in Holy Jim Canyon on Monday, alongside professional search and rescue teams who were looking for Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18.

"She knows we’d be looking for her even if she can’t see or hear us she knows we’d be looking for her," said Sara Torrenueva, a friend of Jack.

The hikers, pictured below, were reported missing after calling for help at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Their cell phone battery died, and the two had not been heard from since the call.

Authorities were unable to obtain an accurate location using GPS from the phone.

A search effort was organized for Tuesday on Facebook, and some 250 people said they were attending. A bandana and a pair of jeans were found during the search, but authorities determined they did not belong to Cendoya or Jack.

"Lots of prayers are going out for the kids right now," said Russell Jack, Kyndall's father, on Tuesday morning. "They can't go another night, so they've got to find them today. That's what we're hoping for, praying for."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department urged those volunteering for the search to "be prepared, be safe and have a plan."

The department asked searchers to alert their own family and friends to their plans and to wear appropriate footwear and carry extra food, water and navigation tools such as a compass, map and GPS device. A whistle and flashlight was also recommended.

In a news release, the department provided a link to a federal website with information on safe hiking practices.

The search is focused on the Trabuco Canyon area. Dark and foggy conditions halted Sunday night's search, but skies cleared late Monday morning.

Trees and brush that had grown up during spring conditions was making the search from above difficult and conditions challenging, authorities said. On Tuesday, they planned to fan out over a 2-mile-wide arc with a search party that includes officers on horseback. Other searchers were being dropped by helicopter into remote areas.

"If you get off trail, you will quickly be between waist- and head-high brush. So you're going to be breaking a lot of brush. It's very difficult travel. It's hard and it's exhausting," sheriff's reserve Lt. Chuck Williams said.

Rescuers used K-9s to follow the scent of one of the hikers more than a mile from where the pair had parked. Authorities said that somewhere near a mine shaft, the trail went cold.

"I'm having a feeling that one of them is injured and they are sticking together and they're just unable to be heard or seen," sheriff's Lt. Erin Giudice said Monday.


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The hikers' vehicle was located at the entrance to Holy Jim Trail. Inside the vehicle were two phone chargers and a parking pass bought specifically for Sunday.

Late Tuesday, Jack's mother scrawled a note using the condensation on the car's back windshield (pictured below): "Kyndall we r looking wont stop. Love you, mom"

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