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Stranded Hiker Thought He Was 'In The Afterlife' As He Awaited Help

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Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18 (Photos courtesy of OC Sheriff-Coroner Department)
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One of the two hikers who got lost for four days after an Easter Sunday hike is speaking out about his harrowing experience in Orange County's Cleveland National Forest.

Nicolas Cendoya, 19, went on a hike with Kyndall Jack, 18, but as night fell the pair realized that they were in trouble. They didn't bring enough water, they were fatigued and running out of daylight. They called authorities, but their phone ran out of battery. Cendoya said he was worried they wouldn't last the night. He picked up Jack and tried to carry her to their car, but somehow he fell and hit his head.

That's when the trip really took a turn for the worst. He described what he remembers—or barely remembers—to the Los Angeles Times, "I was just out unconscious. I can’t even tell you when I woke up... [Afterward] I was in lucid dreams, lucid hallucinations, every single day."

Cendoya thinks that Jack might have guessed he was dead, and that's how the two ended up separated. Cendoya ate plants and said his faith and the memory of a recently-deceased friend kept him going. Cendoya told the Times, "The whole time I was lost, I felt the presence of Jesus and my friend, Carlos, who died last year of cancer. I felt they were both with me, inspiring me to stay alive."

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The hiker's hallucinations grew more vivid, and he thought that he might have died and gone to the afterlife. He was paranoid that predators were stalking him, and he grabbed a sharp stick that he used as a weapon to defend himself. He thought he saw Jack getting rescued, but she was actually rescued after he was.

Cendoya was rescued Wednesday night, and he doubts he would have lasted another night. He was severely dehydrated and disoriented. He thought his rescue attempt was just another hallucination: "When the firefighters came up, I didn’t believe it."

Cendoya was released from the hospital today.

Related:
2nd Missing Hiker Found After 4 Days Stranded in Trabuco Canyon
1 Of 2 Missing Hikers Found 'Severely Dehydrated And Disoriented'
Hikers Still Lost In National Forest After Easter Sunday Outing