An Orange County Fire Authority helicopter lands after dropping off volunteers in the search for two missing Costa Mesa hikers in April, 2013. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / April 2, 2013)

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  • Costa Mesa, CA, United States

A volunteer who suffered a severe spine injury while he helped search for a pair of missing hikers last year has sued the young woman he was trying to help find.

The lawsuit filed this month on behalf of Nick Papageorge alleges Kyndall Jack put her rescuers in undue danger because she was wholly unprepared and planning to take hallucinogenic drugs when she headed into the wilderness of Trabuco Canyon with friend Nicolas Cendoya on Easter Sunday last year.

Jack was 18 at the time, and Cendoya was 19. Both attended Costa Mesa High School where the community rallied search parties to scour the canyon.

Papageorge was among hundreds of volunteers who showed up over four days in April, 2013, to look for the two hikers.

During the hunt he fell more than 100 feet, injuring his back to the point that he needed surgery that placed a titanium rod and screws in his spine.

Papageorge was 20 at the time, and his medical bills have so far totaled more than half a million dollars, his lawyer, Eric Dubin, said.

According to his Dubin, Papageorge did not know Jack or Cendoya but volunteered because it was his lifelong aspiration to work as an emergency responder.

"He's simply a hero who broke his spine and needs help paying his medical bills," Dubin said. "And we're hoping that the Jacks have insurance that can help with that."

Jack could not be reached for comment, and a lawyer was not listed for her in court records.

Dubin declined to comment on why Cendoya is not named in the lawsuit.

During the search last year, officials found 497 milligrams of methamphetamines in Cendoya's car, and the Orange County district attorney's officer charged him with a felony count of drug possession.

After they were found, Jack and Cendoya described hallucinating after wandering off the trail and getting lost.

Jack said they carried three small bottles of water and a backpack with a lighter, keys and a cell phone they used to call authorities when they realized they were lost.

Both hikers started hallucinating by the evening of the first day they were lost, Jack said.

She described memories of fighting off animals and at one point trying to "light the sky" with her lighter as a signal for help.

At some point, the two got separated. Rescuers found Cendoya on April 3, and the next day, they found Jack clinging to the side of a canyon, four nights after the two disappeared.

Cendoya pleaded guilty to the drug possession charge and entered a rehab program that allows first-time offenders to avoid jail.

Despite a push from Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a judge ruled in July that the two hikers were not responsible for repaying the Orange County Fire Authority the tens of thousands of dollars it spent rescuing them.