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Rescued Hiker Issues Statement, Grinning Photo From Hospital Bed

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IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — The 19-year-old Costa Mesa man who was missing for three days in the Cleveland National Forest says he is thankful to his rescuers and relieved his friend was found safe.

Mission Hospital officials released a statement Friday from Nicolas Cendoya, 19, who is also known as Nick, along with a photograph of him in his hospital bed, grinning widely and giving a thumbs up.

“I was so relieved to hear that Kyndall was found and will be okay,” Cendoya said in his statement. “I can’t wait to see her face-to-face and give her a big hug. I just want to see for myself that she’s okay.”

Cendoya, clad in shorts and no shoes, was discovered “delirious” on Trabuco Canyon Creek Road around 9 p.m. after crews were tipped that a man was at the bottom of a steep ravine off Holy Jim Falls. Authorities said he was very weak, severely dehydrated and slightly confused.

“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,” Cendoya’s statement said.

The next morning, Cendoya’s hiking companion, 18-year-old Jack, was found less than a mile from where she and Cendoya left their vehicle.

Cendoya told doctors that they became separated as they hiked on Sunday night. Several law enforcement agencies and search crews were deployed to come the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest in search of the teens.

A search and rescue Orange County Reserve Sheriff’s deputy suffered a head-injury from a 60-foot fall during the search for Cendoya and Jack.

“I want to thank the officer for risking his life to save Kyndall, and wish him the best in his recovery,” the statement said. “I also want to thank the firefighters who climbed up to save me. And, I want to thank the media for keeping attention on us to help get us rescued.”

Both Cendoya and Jack, who also lives in Costa Mesa, are students at Cal State Fullerton.

»RELATED STORY: Helicopter Crew Recalls Rescue Of Missing 18-Year-Old Hiker

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