Bodies Found Embracing in Joshua Tree May Be California Couple Who Went Missing in Park 3 Months Ago
Authorities are working to identify two bodies discovered in Joshua Tree nearly three months after a young couple went missing in the California national park.
In a press release, the National Park Service confirmed the discovery of the two bodies "in a remote region" of the park by hikers on Sunday at 11:30 p.m. local time, and said that park rangers, Joshua Tree Search and Rescue, and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department were responding.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's office spokeswoman Jodi Miller confirmed to PEOPLE that the bodies had been discovered and that recovery would take place on Monday. The bodies have yet to be formally identified, she said.
The discovery might provide some answers in the case of missing persons Rachel Nguyen and Joseph Orbeso — whose father, Gilbert Orbeso, was among those who located the bodies, Miller said.
According to a previous release from the National Park Service, Nguyen and Orbeso entered the park at 6:45 a.m. on July 27, and have not been seen or heard from since. Family was alerted that the couple — both from California and in their 20s — might be missing after they failed to check out of their local accommodations on time on July 28, and left all their belongings behind. Their vehicle was found near the Maze Loop, which is located in the northwest area of the park.
A ping on Orbeso's cell phone was last recorded from inside the park at 4 p.m. on July 27, according to the National Park Service.
Four weeks into an extensive search — including canine and overhead rescue teams — efforts were scaled back to limited continuous search mode due to lack of resources.
According to local outlet KABC, Orbeso's father said that he and the search team discovered the bodies "embracing" on Sunday.
Despite no formal confirmation, Orbeso told the outlet, "I feel that we have closure and we know we found them. That was our main goal was to find them…Hope they can rest in peace now."