California

Search continues in blazing heat for missing couple at Joshua Tree National Park

Triple-digit heat and thunderstorms hinder the search for Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen at Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.
Triple-digit heat and thunderstorms hinder the search for Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen at Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. The Minneapolis Star Tribune file

Search efforts continue at Josha Tree National Park in southern California for a couple missing since Friday.

Joseph Orbeso, 21, of Lakewood, and Rachel Nguyen, 20, of Westminster set out for a hike Thursday, when temperatures in the park hit 100 degrees, reports NPR. The owner of the AirBnB where they had been staying notified authorities when they didn’t check out Friday.

Searchers found their car at the head of the Maze Loop trail on Friday. Over the weekend, more than 100 searchers, helicopters and airplanes sought the couple. Search efforts resumed Wednesday.

Several volunteers and search dogs had to be airlifted out as a result of soaring temperatures, reported the Facebook page of Joshua Tree Search & Rescue, a volunteer organization assisting the search.

Also, a search dog had to be carried out by its partner after developing blisters on its paws, the page reported Wednesday.

Our dogs put their all into the search, as do their human partners. Here our dog is carried out by the handler because it developed blisters on its paws.

Posted by Joshua Tree Search & Rescue on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Orange County Reporter says friends and family of the couple are still holding out hope. Authorities say the couple were not experienced desert hikers, and noted the heat and unforgiving terrain make long-term survival difficult.

“It’s not impossible but highly improbable,” George Land, a spokesman for Joshua Tree National Park, told the newspaper.

The Maze Loop trail has been closed while the search continues, The official Joshua Tree National Park account on Twitter posted a notice Wednesday asking the public to stay out to avoid confusing search dogs seeking the scent of the missing hikers.

The National Weather Service reports a chance of thunderstorms with a high a 97 degrees today at the national park, with temperatures rising to the triple digits by the weekend.

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