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Lost hikers from South California church group found and rescued

Family and friends wait for a group of missing hikers at the entrance of Eaton Canyon, in Pasadena, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Rescue crews are searching on foot and by air early Monday for at least 15 hikers from a church group who didn't return from a weekend hike in a Southern California nature preserve. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Family and friends wait for a group of missing hikers at the entrance of Eaton Canyon, in Pasadena, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Rescue crews are searching on foot and by air early Monday for at least 15 hikers from a church group who didn't return from a weekend hike in a Southern California nature preserve. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Fifteen hikers from a church group who failed to return from a weekend hike in the Southern California mountains were found by a helicopter search crew Monday morning and returned safe.

A medic was lowered to the group and no injuries were reported, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Johnie Jones said.

Just before the midmorning announcement, family and friends of the hikers had gathered in a group hug.

Eleven adults and four juveniles, ages 14 to 36, set out in the Eaton Canyon Natural Area on Sunday morning and were expected back by the evening.

Someone on the trek called the local sheriff's station Sunday night and said the group was lost. Deputies arrived at Eaton Canyon around 10 p.m. and found two relatives of hikers who reported receiving texts from the hiking party that said "help."

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The member of the group, which included some who had done the same hike previously, were outfitted with backpacks, first-aid kits, extra clothing, food and water but did not expect to be in the wilderness all night, Jones said.

Crews searched through the night and were joined by reinforcements at daybreak. Helicopters joined the search after early morning low clouds and fog began to break up.

Members of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Huntington Park said the hikers had gone out as a group on three-mile treks before. They had planned to go rappelling at the Eaton Canyon falls.

"We're assuming that they got tired, and they stopped," Wendolyn Ortiz told KABC-TV.

Eaton Canyon is a very popular hiking spot with waterfalls at the base of the rugged San Gabriel Mountains, about 15 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Rescues are common, however.

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