Dead bodies of young couple that went missing on a hike found ‘locked in final embrace’
The Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California is a popular tourist destination for people who enjoy hiking and climbing, and its large areas of rocky terrain and desert land appeal to those who like a challenge.
Unfortunately, the park can be dangerous for less-experienced ramblers. Due to its sparse landscape and high temperatures during summer months, those who visit the area are at risk of potentially losing their way and becoming severely dehydrated - possibly even to fatal extremes.
It is thought that this is what happened to 21-year-old Joseph Orbeso and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen. The young couple went missing while visiting the park way back in July, and the recent discovery of two bodies has led authorities to believe that they perished after getting lost and succumbing to the 100°F temperatures of the desert.
The bodies have not formally been identified, but Orbeso's father, Gilbert, was present with the search team at the time they were discovered on Sunday. They were located at the end of a long trail of empty water bottles and discarded food wrappers.
Mr. Orbeso is convinced they are that of his son and his son's girlfriend.
"I feel like we have closure. We know we found them. That was our main goal, to find them," said Gilbert, who also reported to ABC7 that the couple were found locked in an embrace.
Fears for their safety first arose when the couple failed to check out of their accommodation in the summer, and they were confirmed missing after their car was found near a popular trail known as the Maze Loop. Up until this weekend, the search for Orbeso and Nguyen had not turned up any evidence, as the park covers an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, and there was no precise last-known location of the pair.
As residents of LA, the young couple were probably not too well-acquainted with the vast rural terrain, and most likely got lost in the unfamiliar wilderness. Orbeso's phone was definitely working the day before he and Nguyen were due to check out of their accommodation, as records show he received a message while in the park - but, for some reason, they were unable to use a map to find their way back to their car.
Autopsies have yet to be conducted to officially determine the cause of death, but - judging by the evidence - there does not appear to be any foul play involved.
"The way the tracks were picked up indicate these people could be walking in circles, which is not uncommon when people are lost," said George Land, a spokesman for Joshua Tree National Park.
Before the bodies were discovered on the weekend, Gilbert Orbeso wrote about the search in a Facebook post. "Searching for Joseph and Rachel," he wrote. "God protect and give us strength."
After finding his son later that day, Mr. Orbeso said that: "I believed that I was going to find them. I didn't know when, but I had my answer."
What happened to Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen was undeniably tragic, but at least their families have some closure now.