SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Two teen hikers lost for days in a California forest might have to pay for part or all of the $160,000 search after a small amount of drugs was found in their car, authorities said.
Officials initially said Nicolas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, wouldn't be responsible. But Cendoya was charged this week with drug possession because methamphetamine was allegedly found in the car the pair parked before going on a hike last month in Cleveland National Forest.
"The recent drug charge on Cendoya may change things," said Gail Krause, a spokeswoman with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Cendoya was found three days after he and Jack disappeared. She was found four days later. Both were dehydrated and delirious, and remembered little of their ordeal, including how they were separated. They also said they had hallucinations, with Jack saying she thought she was being attacked by animals.
"They didn't go out there to hike, they went out there to get high. And they got disoriented," Orange County board supervisor Todd Spitzer told the Los Angeles Times.
Spitzer said all options are being considered, including civil and criminal action. He hopes to have a recommendation to the board in the coming weeks.
Supervisor John Moorlach questioned why taxpayers should be penalized for what he characterized as reckless actions by the hikers.
"We certainly want to save them but, by golly, you were saved and you owe your society a debt of gratitude," he said, "and you need to pay the bill."
If convicted, Cendoya would face a sentencing range from probation to three years in jail.