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Thursday
May022013

Rescued California Teen Hiker Charged With Meth Possession

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Nicolas Cendoya, one of the teenage hikers lost for days in the California wilderness after becoming disoriented on a hike, has been charged with possession of methamphetamine.

Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, went hiking near Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on March 31. When they failed to return, officials launched a massive search effort. They were both found separately several days later.

At a news conference following his rescue and release from the hospital, Cendoya said he and Jack wanted to touch the clouds and misjudged how long it would take when they were hiking. It was their first date.

He said he was disoriented and hallucinated while he was lost, at one point believing tigers were stalking him.

Police found 497 mg of meth in Cendoya's car, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
"It was found on April 2 when deputies were looking in the car for any information that might help them find the missing hikers," Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, told ABCNews.com.

Cendoya was charged with one felony count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine. If convicted, his sentence could range from probation to three years in jail, according to Emami. He could also be eligible for a drug diversion program.

Jack has not been charged with anything at this time, the district attorney's office said. Investigators did not ask Cendoya or Jack to take drug tests after their rescues, according to ABC News' Los Angeles station KABC.

Cendoya did not respond to requests for comment and the district attorney's office did not know if he has retained an attorney. His arraignment is scheduled for May 22.

Cendoya was barefoot, shirtless and disoriented when he was found on the evening of April 3 and taken to the hospital for treatment for dehydration and other injuries. Jack, 18, was found the morning of April 4. She was shoeless and clinging to a ledge.

When the pair got lost, they tried to call 911 but their cell phone battery died. Cendoya said he and Jack tried to find their way down the mountain, fell and got separated.

"I just remember going into a lucid dream, I fell and I was unconscious," he said at an April 7 news conference.

His physician, Dr. Stephen Desantis, said Cendoya 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, KABC also reported.

Cendoya said he didn't remember much after the fall, but added that for the five days he was lost, he ate plants to stay alive and hallucinated about being stalked by tigers.

Cendoya and Jack are believed to have gone off the trail near Holy Jim Trail, a tree-lined dirt path along a creek that leads to a waterfall and is popular with day hikers.

In the 911 call, they said they were about a mile from Jack's car, which was parked at a trailhead, but rescuers expanded the search when they weren't found nearby.

The area is in a section of the national forest in the Santa Ana Mountains, which lie along the border of Orange and Riverside counties southeast of Los Angeles. The trail ranges in elevation from about 2,000 feet to about 4,000 feet.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio