A Los Angeles couple who went missing during a visit to the desert wandered for five days, drinking their own urine to survive, before they were discovered by the U.S. Border Patrol, according to a friend of the couple.
On Friday, the LAPD confirmed that Mariya Mitkova, 27, and Aaron Morganstein, 33, were discovered in "good health" near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The couple was last seen leaving the pair's home in the 2200 block of Shoredale Avenue, in Elysian Valley, about 3 p.m. last Saturday. They told loved ones they had planned to drive to Joshua Tree National Park or Imperial Sand Dunes for the weekend, according to the LAPD.
Mitkova and Morganstein, according to LAPD Officer Tony Im, were found in Mexico and were going to be picked up by family members.
Briana Gonzales, a friend, sent details of the couple's ordeal to The Times on Friday, citing a cousin of Mitkova and people who spoke to them after they were located.
Gonzales said the couple were at the Hugh T. Osborne Lookout Park in Imperial County on Sunday and left their car to go on a day hike and take photos.
This was also the last time the pair had a wireless Internet signal, Gonzales wrote.
"They got lost while out on their hike and could see a red light flashing in the distance so they started walking [in that] direction," Gonzales wrote.
Mitkova and Morganstein spent five days walking in the desert without food and with little water.
"In order [to] conserve their water they also drank their own urine," Gonzales' email states. "They saw helicopters flying, and actually were able to light a fire to get attention but no one was able to see them."
The couple is said to have walked to a cellphone tower, where they saw maintenance workers who contacted the Border Patrol.
Mitkova "said that they were nearly dead, exhausted, dehydrated and thought that they were gonna die and then they ran into someone," said Gonzales' email, citing Mitkova's cousin.
The couple had been expected to return to work Monday, Gonzales told The Times earlier this week.
Morganstein, a professional photographer, planned to go to San Diego, where he was to assist in a photo shoot on Monday, she said. Once they arrived in San Diego, Mitkova was going to catch a train on Sunday and head back for work in Santa Monica.
But the couple never showed up for work, Gonzales said.
"It's super-odd for him not to show up to a gig and for her not to show up to work," she said.
The couple's ATM transactions show they made no purchases since Saturday, Gonzales said.
Before taking off for the desert trip, the couple withdrew $120 from an ATM, then paid for gas. At some point, they fueled up again at a gas station in Cabazon.
Then a cellphone pinged off a cell tower in Rancho Mirage, Gonzales said.
At 6 p.m., Mitkova called a friend and said they were headed to the sand dunes.
Gonzales said Riverside County sheriff's deputies conducted an air and ground search for the couple and their car, a 2002 blue Subaru Outback. Three Joshua Tree park rangers also looked for the couple without success.
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1:35 p.m.: This article was updated with details provided by Gonzales.