Trabuco Canyon rescued hiker released from hospital, tells harrowing story


"We weren't meant to die," Cendoya said at an afternoon news conference.

The 19-year-old from Costa Mesa had been at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo since he was rescued Wednesday night from Trabuco Canyon. Cendoya and his companion, 18-year-old Kyndall Jack, lost their way while hiking Sunday, March 31. That day was the first time the two had hung out.

"We just wanted to go on an Easter adventure," he said.

The two called 911 for help, but the cellphone battery went dead. Cendoya said that's when he and Jack tried to find their way back down the mountain they were on, but they fell and became separated.

Cendoya's doctor Stephen Desantis said he showed signs of blunt-force trauma to a lung, likely from the fall, causing amnesia and an injury that allowed air to escape from his lungs and sit in the middle of his chest. After the fall, Cendoya said he did not remember much.

"I just remember going into a lucid dream, I fell and I was unconscious," he said.

The two would remain lost for nearly five days, during which Cendoya would eat plants to stay alive and hallucinate of being stalked by tigers.

"I did not cry, I did not live in fear, I embraced everything," he said. "All the cuts, all the pains, I knew it was for a reason."

Cendoya's co-worker Amanda Phipps and two other volunteer rescuers would eventually be the key to finding him. They heard him calling out for help Wednesday and supported him through the final moments of the life-chaning ordeal.

"I just knew I needed this to become the person I needed to be," Cendoya said.

He said surviving this has taught him to appreciate the little things in life, and he's inspired to become firefighter or police officer after his rescue.

Cendoya plans on retracing the trail eventually, and this time he knows what he'll need.

"Definitely bring a compass, water, tell people where you're going, bring a map," he said. "I think the No. 1 thing is to tell people exactly where you're going, because I didn't even tell my parents exactly where I was going."

Cendoya and Jack have not yet reunited, though he was relieved to know she had been rescued.

"I just wanted to see Kyndall more than anything. Just to see her face-to-face just so I know that she's OK," he said.

Jack remains hospitalized at UC Irvine Medical Center, and there is no discharge date for her at this time.

Cendoya concluded with thanks.

"You guys honestly touched my heart," he said. "People who didn't know me went out there."

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