Nicholas Cendoya, one of the teenage hikers lost for days in the wilderness after becoming disoriented on a hike, said today after he was released from the hospital that he and his hiking partner weren't meant to die.
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.
Cendoya was barefoot, shirtless and disoriented when he was found on Wednesday evening and taken to the hospital for treatment for dehydration and other injuries. Jack, 18, was found Thursday morning. She was shoeless and clinging to a ledge.
During a press conference today outside Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Cendoya, of Costa Mesa, Calif., said he and Jack "just wanted to go on an Easter adventure," and that they were hanging out for the first time that day, according to ABC News station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
"We weren't meant to die," he said.
When they got lost, they tried to call 911 but their cellphone 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.
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.
"The whole time I was lost, I felt the presence of Jesus and my friend, Carlos, who died last year of cancer," Cendoya said in a separate statement released by the hospital. "I felt they were both with me, inspiring me to stay alive."
He said his experiences have inspired him to want to become a police officer or firefighter.
Cendoya has not yet been able to reunite with Jack, 18, but he he's relieved that she has been found.
"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.
Jack was being treated at the University of California-Irvine Medical Center and was listed in stable condition on Saturday.
"She was very dirty, up on a small little ledge ... in the fetal position holding on," L.A. County Sheriff's Reserve Deputy Fred Wenzel told KABC-TV. "She asked me what year it was. She thought it was the year 2030. She was very confused."
Cendoya said he felt immense gratitude toward the rescuers and team of doctors.
"There are so many people to thank," he said.
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.
ABC News' Kevin Dolak and Suzan Clarke contributed to this report.
- Society & Culture