Calif. Hiker Rescued After Massive, $160K Search Charged with Drug Possession

Methamphetamine was found during the rescue effort inside a car driven by Nicolas Cendoya, 19

By Melissa Pamer
|  Thursday, May 2, 2013  |  Updated 9:40 AM EDT
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Kyndall Jack and Nicolas Cendoya became lost after they ventured into the wilderness in the Trabuco Canyon area of Cleveland National Forest. Cendoya was charged Tuesday with the possession of drugs that were found in a car at the trailhead. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 1, 2013.

Kyndall Jack and Nicolas Cendoya became lost after they ventured into the wilderness in the Trabuco Canyon area of Cleveland National Forest. Cendoya was charged Tuesday with the possession of drugs that were found in a car at the trailhead. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 1, 2013.

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Taxpayers Likely to Foot $160K Bill for OC Hiker Rescue

The Costa Mesa teens who went missing in Trabuco Canyon could be responsible for the $160,000 it cost Orange County officials to find them. Dozens of deputies and firefighters searched around the clock for the hiking duo. Nicholas Cendoya, 19, said he didn't want his parents to be burdened with the cost, but if it came to it, he would help out. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 30, 2013.

Lost Hiker Thought He Was Going to Die

Nicholas Cendoya, who was lost in an Orange County forest for four days, said he didn't know whether he'd make it out alive. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, 2013.
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One of two teen hikers who got lost in the wilderness in Southern California, prompting a massive five-day search effort that cost more than $160,000, has been charged with the possession of methamphetamine found during the hike.

Authorities found an illegal substance in the car in which Nicolas Cendoya, 19, had traveled to the trailhead in the Trabuco Canyon area of Cleveland National Forest, Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Gail Krause said Wednesday.

A felony charge of possession of a controlled substance was filed against Cendoya on Tuesday, according to Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney's office.

The substance was 497 milligrams of methamphetamine, which was found in his car April 2, when sheriff's deputies were looking for information on him, Emami said.

That amount of methamphetamine is likely to be a supply rather that a dosage that could be consumed at one time, according to NBC4 Los Angeles' Dr. Bruce Hensel.

Authorities had 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 was released Tuesday and included the services of six agencies.

Cendoya, who spoke to NBC4 on Tuesday and said he would help pay back the cost of the search if needed, was not being held, Emami said. Cendoya said he didn't want his parents to be burdened with the search costs, which he called "insane."

Asked on Tuesday 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."

He is set to be arraigned in Santa Ana Superior Court on May 22, Emami said.

NBC4's Ryan Bourgard and Vikki Vargas contributed to this article.

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