Missing couple
Rachel Nguyen and Joseph Orbeso. Courtesy National Parks Service

Autopsies were pending Tuesday on two bodies found embracing in death that are believed to be a Southland couple who went missing after departing on a desert hike in July.

A widespread search in the searing heat of Joshua Tree National Park at the time failed to find the pair.

It’s possible they had gotten lost in an area that can have temperatures nearing 110 in the unforgiving summertime heat.

The remains were found Sunday by a search team that included Gilbert Orbeso, the father of one of the missing hikers.

“We hope that they can rest in peace now,” Gilbert Orbeso told reporters after helping to discover the remains in a remote area of the park near Maze Loop. “I believed that I was going to find them. I didn’t know when. But I had my answer today.”

Rachel Nguyen, 21, of Westminster, and 21-year-old Joseph Orbeso, of Lakewood, were last seen July 27. They were reported missing the next day when they failed to check out of their Airbnb rental.

The bodies were recovered Monday morning and taken to the San Bernardino County coroner’s office, which will conduct autopsies and make positive identifications, according to Jodi Miller, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies were flown into steep terrain where the bodies were found on Sunday, Miller said.

Sheriff’s officials tried to recover the remains Sunday but due to darkness, the effort was suspended until Monday.

Orbeso, who has kept up the search effort since the pair disappeared, told the station he and the search team were scaling boulders about two miles from Maze Loop when they spotted the couple’s clothing, some water bottles and food wrappers. The crew followed the trail and saw the remains of two people — the bodies embracing each other.

Orbeso said he had a “sense of relief that we have found them after going a long time on these hikes.”

“I feel that we have closure,” he said. “And we know we found them. That was our main goal was to find them.”

–City News Service

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