“We weren’t meant to die.”
Those were the words of Nicholas Cendoya, a teenage hiker who went missing along with 18-year-old Kyndall Jack late last month in Trabuco Canyon inside Cleveland National Forest in California. A massive search was then launched to find the missing teens, with crews finally locating them last week.
The teens were in bad condition when rescuers found them in the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California; Cendoya, 19, was barefoot, shirtless and disoriented when rescuers found him last Wednesday, while Jack was found the next day without shoes and hanging for dear life onto a ledge, ABC News reported.
After being released from a hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif., Cendoya recalled his ordeal.
“We weren’t meant to die,” he told a news conference after his release from Mission Hospital, KABC reported.
Cendoya and his hiking partner Jack set off on an “Easter adventure” March 31 when they got lost in the 780-square-mile forest.
When they realized they were stranded, they tried calling 911 but had no cellphone battery. Then they tried walking back over the mountain they just climbed, but instead they became separated.
“We just wanted to go on an Easter adventure,” Cendoya told KABC.
Dr. Stephen Desantis, the physician who examined the 19-year-old hiker, said Cendoya showed indications of blunt force trauma to a lung, which led to amnesia and an injury that caused air to escape his lungs and sit in the middle of his chest. Desantis said the injury most likely came from a fall.
Cendoya said he couldn’t remember much after falling.
"I just remember going into a lucid dream, I fell and I was unconscious," he told KABC.
Cendoya recounted hallucinating that he was being stalked by tigers. He said he survived by eating plants during his five days in the forest.
But the 19-year-old hiker said he always believed he would be rescued.
"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."
It was Cendoya’s colleague, Amanda Phipps, who helped rescue him. She heard his cries for help on Wednesday as a search team looked for the two missing California hikers.
Despite the ordeal, Cendoya said he would like to return to Cleveland National Forest.
"Definitely bring a compass, water, tell people where you're going, bring a map," he said of the mistakes he’s learned from. "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 was aware that Jack was rescued but had not yet seen his hiking partner.
"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.