Nicolas Cendoya, Rescued Hiker, Has More Woes Than Meth Count: Injured Searcher Seeks Help Defraying $350k Hospital Bill

Thumbnail image for nicholas-cendoya_courtesy-Joel-Rahmatulla-Mission-Hospital.jpeg
Nick Cendoya in hospital
Despite the urging of county Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the Board of Supervisors decided against charging teen hikers in Trabuco Canyon for $160,000 in rescue costs--although the board did agree Tuesday to seek state legislation that would allow passing future rescue costs on to reckless victims.

But Spitzer is not done with at least one teen hiker. He showed up at Nicolas Cendoya's court hearing this morning on a felony drug possession charge, with the supervisor seeking financial compensation for an injured rescuer who racked up $350,000 in hospital costs while trying to save Cendoya and Kyndall Jack in April.

The judge rescheduled 19-year-old Cendoya's arraignment for alleged possession of methamphetamine until July 12. In the meantime, attorneys will discuss a claim made by 20-year-old Nick Papageorge IV, a volunteer searcher who fell 110 feet in rugged Trabuco Canyon and required back surgery and a weeklong Mission Hospital stay that cost $350,000.

"I would like to get compensation for my parents,'' Papageorge reportedly told City News Service outside the courtroom.

Spitzer said he went to court today not as an attorney or supervisor but as a volunteer for Papageorge's family. The politician, whose current supervisorial district includes Trabuco Canyon just as his past state legislative districts did, raised the issue of how Marsy's Law factors into the criminal prosecution of Cendoya.

Marsy's Law, also known as the state "Victims' Bill of Rights," is named after Marsy Nicholas, the sister of billionaire Broadcom founder Henry Nicholas III. Marsy was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend, and Henry bankrolled the voter initiative campaign, which Spitzer chaired. The supervisor has been a legal adviser for the law since its passage in 2008.

Cendoya's attorney, veteran Orange County criminal defense lawyer Paul Meyer, has "been very gracious'' in discussions on resolving the medical expense issues, Spitzer reportedly said.

Papageorge's family says it has so far been billed $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and does not know how much insurance companies will cover. The young man had titanium screws put in his back, but doctors have said he can expect a full recovery that will not inhibit his intended career as a firefighter-paramedic.

Papageorge said he went looking for Cendoya and Jack on April 1 and April 3, believing his experience frequently hiking in the area would give him an advantage. After Papageorge fell, he immediately knew from his paramedic training that he had broken his back, he now says. His hiking partner could not get a cell phone signal, so they had to shout for help from others searching nearby. It would be an hour before Papageorge was airlifted to Mission Hospital.

"It's just a miracle that God spared me,'' he told City News Service.

"There's no logical reason why his spinal cord was not severed,'' added his father, Nick Papageorge III, who noted the medical bills are a "pretty major financial hit to us."

Mission Hospital is the same hospital that treated Cendoya, who also cited the same career choice as Papageorge IV--before the meth charges came down. Sheriff's deputies claim they found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in the car Cendoya drove up to the canyon. Deputies said the car was searched for clues that might help them find Cendoya and 18-year-old Jack. He was charged April 30 with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance.

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As a person who participated in the search efforts and was injured, I never once even thought of charging anyone for the medical costs of the injuries I sustained.  I was fully aware of the dangers involved (poison oak, dehydration, falling, etc.) and only engaged in activities I believed would result in the sort of injury where I could handle the costs.  In my case, it was a severe case of urushiol induced contact dermatitis (poison oak) resulting from when  I knowingly charged through large patches of poison oak in conducting my search efforts, but figured I could deal with the consequences later.  I was even the person who first found one of the missing hikers, and I never expected a reward or compensation although a simple "thank you" was much appreciated.  

I can understand the injured hiker's desire to recover his $350,000 in medical expenses, but I don't believe he should be compensated by anyone.  It would be nice if public supporters, who believe he should be compensated, crowdfunded a portion of his medical expenses.


Spitzer wants 19 year old Cendoya to make compensation for 20 year old Papageorge's $350,000 medical bills. It's no surprise that Cendoya's net worth isn't anywhere near that amount. As much as Papageorge is to be admired for volunteering to help find the lost Cendoya, shouldn't Papageorge and his parents have taken into account the possibility that Papageorge could receive injuries in his effort to find the missing hikers? That was a risk he chose to take. The article doesn't say if Papageorge had any medical insurance; if he didn't have any then he shouldn't have volunteered for a risky mission like that without medical coverage. It may sound harsh of me to say this, but in their own way both men went on that trail unprepared for the dangers ahead.

18usc241 topcommenter

Dear Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, 

I was doing a little bit of research on this "Marsy's Law" that you helped spearhead. So Marsy Nicholas was stalked and then killed. 

Stalking in my case: 

Conspiracy to harass and intimidate by law enforcement in Orange County since before Loretta Sanchez was a member of Congress using officers (mostly non-evasive harassment) and countless numbers of presumably entrapped  criminal scum (more violent harassment - property damage / privacy violation / attempted murder). 

Attempted murder: 

Almost getting knocked off the Garden Grove freeway ending in a spin out that finds me and my Camry pointing in the wrong direction on said freeway. And then witnessing an OC "peace" officer flee the scene. I had to back out of the freeway at the next exit too afraid to make a u-turn not knowing the condition of my tires and axle.  

A truck pulling into my lane on 5 freeway/Culver Northbound pinning me to his railing and dragging me down the freeway a bit - not too far removed in time from the above incident. Left side of my Camry completely destroyed as I see the front of a huge truck across my driver side pushing me down the road. . 

Looks to me Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer that this Hispanic American man is the turn-of-the-century version of  Marsy Nicholas except for the dying part.  Oh what's that? It's OK if law enforcement operating in Orange County does it? Oh yes that's right I forgot. Orange County, California is still trying to get over the 1960's civil rights movement and MLK. 

René Bruce
René Bruce

This guy is total idiot... needs to pay, at the same time, the other idiot that fell 110' trying to find this guy, isn't much better...


what's insane is the 350K bill.. seriously?


It's been proven time and time again that people would postpone calling for help until its to late. This plan will cost lives...

Todd Spitzer is just a stupid little man that wants free press so he can run for DA.

He does not care if your kids freeze to death on a mountain top because they are afraid to call for help.

Ask any trained SAR Professional.


If Nick Papageorge IV was acting on behalf of the county, his medical care will be covered by either Orange County or his county of employment. All SAR volunteers in the State of California are covered by the states workman's compensation laws. 

 Any attempt to collect additional money is nothing more than a scam to enrich either the injured party or his supervisor/lawyer. We all know Todd Spitzer is a scam artist and needs to be grabbing those headlines at every opportunity. It makes me sick that he is using this boy as nothing more than a prop in his campaign for District Attorney.

If the Papageorge was not a county volunteer and acting on his own, he has absolutely no cause of action against Cendoya or anyone else. 

18usc241 topcommenter

"Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and his Board of Supervisors have asked Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Tustin) to sponsor a bill allowing government rescue costs to be passed along to reckless people who have been saved."

Hopefully Mr. Todd Spitzer, you are also considering a bill allowing the people of Orange County, CA to recoup the tens of millions of their taxpayer dollars flushed down the toilet as a result of the deliberate, premeditated,  malice of forethought reputation massacre committed by Stan Knee (former Garden Grove police Chief) / Brad Gates (former OC sheriff) / Randall Gaston (former Anaheim police chief) and J. Edgar Hoover channeling intelligencia at the FBI. This bill should also include holding the city governments of Anaheim / Garden Grove and the Orange County Board of Supervisors criminally responsible for letting these Bernie Madoff fraudsters masquerade as "men of law" here for so long. 

And as for the 2nd and 3rd generation of I-was-just-following-orders-lemmings of OC law, well enough said.  ... 


@m.e. He had several crushed vertebrae, which required surgery/surgeries and extended time in the hospital, as well as the start of what is likely to be lengthy rehab.  It is quite plausible to rack up that kind of bill in no time. 

To put the $350K price tag into comparative perspective, I had a minor, 10-minute outpatient surgical procedure on my cervical (neck) spine, and have a $45K bill on my desk for the anesthesia alone.


@m.e. The county's make that shit up all the time.

vegandawg23 topcommenter

@truefog Sad thing is that there's many on here posting that think these exorbinant costs should be passed on to kids doing what everyone else likes to do. How many thinking that the kids should pay have never taken drugs and went walking in the woods? These things happen. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you're drunk and on drugs or not you're just gonna get lost from time to time.

18usc241 topcommenter

I should say fourth generation OC law since Raul Quezada (if I go by the behavior of his "men of integrity" on the streets) is following in the fine I-was-just-following-orders-like-a-mindless-lemming-who-is-not-under-a-solemn-oath OC peace officer tradition. 

Exactly what you would expect from someone in a lawless club for so many years. 

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