Should Drug-Using Hikers Pay for Their Own Rescue?

By Sarah Beller 05/03/13

Officials consider charging two lost hikers for their $160,000 rescue operation after meth was found in their car.

Nicolas Cendoya and Kyndall Jack barely
remember their hike.
Photo via

A pair of lost hikers rescued in Orange County may now be charged for the $160,000 search-rescue operation, on the grounds that their drug use made them responsible for the ordeal. An OC supervisor, Todd Spitzer, is claiming that Nicolas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, who got lost in Trabuco Canyon on Easter Sunday, admitted to using cocaine on their hike. And two days before, Cendoya was charged with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance after Sheriff’s investigators found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in his BMW while searching for the teens in the Cleveland National Forest. Cendoya was found April 3 and Jack was discovered the next day. Neither remembered much about their journey, besides reports of "vivid hallucinations of being attacked by animals." Spitzer plans to argue in court that the teens' "reckless" behavior should require them to reimburse tax payers for the cost of the rescue effort. “They obviously were not using good judgment" he said, "The question is…did the drugs affect their judgment to the point that we hold them responsible?” But Sheriff Sandra Hutchens says the drug charge doesn’t change anything about the department’s protocol. “We’re still looking for two lost hikers,” she said. “We’d have to jump to the idea that perhaps they had the intent to get lost. It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t make any difference.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Sarah Beller.png

Sarah Beller is a writer and the Executive Director at Filter. She has written about drug policy with a focus on harm reduction for Substance.comThe Fix and Salon. She has worked as a social worker with formerly incarcerated people in New York for a number of years. Her writing has also appeared in McSweeney’sThe HairpinThe ToastReductressThe Rumpus and other publications. You can find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.