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OC Might Charge Hikers For Rescue, Especially If They Were High

Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18 (Photos courtesy of OC Sheriff-Coroner Department)
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Officials in Orange County are reviewing the rescue of two young hikers who were stranded in Trabuco Canyon for four days last month, and working to determine if the duo are liable for any or all of the cost of the endeavor.

Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, went hiking on Easter Sunday, but became separated and ultimately lost. Cendoya was located and removed to safety first, and Jack was found and airlifted out of the rugged terrain several hours later. Both were hospitalized for treatment for severe dehydration and other injuries.

However, during the search for the pair, authorities found Cendoya's vehicle parked at the recreation area, and found a small quantity of methamphetamine inside. Tuesday, Cendoya was charged with one count felony possession of a controlled substance.

Today, The OC Sheriff-Coroner Department issued a statement regarding the status of the probe into the hikers' rescue, acknowledging the drug use on the part of the youngsters is a factor being taken into consideration:

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The County is evaluating the emergency response to this incident to determine if costs should be recovered from the hikers. That evaluation will include whether or not drug use was a factor in them becoming lost, thus necessitating the rescue effort by public safety personnel.

This does, however, raise a valid point: Would the same rescue operation have been launched had officials known the teens were using drugs, if indeed they were?

Taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for the rigorous search and use of County resources, to the tune of $160,377.8.

OC officials add: "Regardless of the factors associated with the hikers becoming lost, the Sheriff's Department is proud of the diligent efforts of the personnel who successfully located them and returned them safely home."