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California

Search underway in Joshua Tree National Park for missing Orange County couple

Orange County residents Rachel Nguyen and Joseph Orbeso were reported missing Friday. Their vehicle was found in Joshua Tree National Park.
(National Park Service)

An exhaustive search is underway for an Orange County couple reported missing Friday after they failed to return from a hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

Rachel Nguyen and Joseph Orbeso, believed to be in their 20s, never checked out of their Airbnb accommodations on Friday and left all of their belongings behind, said Dan Messaros, incident commander for the search.

After the pair were reported missing, authorities found their vehicle near the Maze Loop trail, in the northwest area of the park. A ping from Orbeso’s cellphone was also recorded about 4 p.m. Thursday from within the park.

Authorities believe the couple went for a hike in the area, he said.

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Nguyen and Orbeso have not been seen or heard from since, Messaros said.

“We have had a few clues here and there, but they all turn up with nothing,” he said.

About 100 volunteers, park employees and investigators from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department — along with six teams of search dogs — have spent hours and days hiking through rocky terrain in search of the missing couple.

But the triple-digit heat has been overwhelming for some volunteers. On Monday, a handful were airlifted out of the park due to the intense heat, according to the Joshua Tree Search and Rescue group.

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Two fixed-wing planes and two helicopters, equipped with thermal imaging, have also flown over the park for any signs of Nguyen and Orbeso, park spokesman George Land said.

Authorities are worried that time is running out as temperatures continue to soar, he said.

Anyone with information on the couple’s whereabouts is urged to call San Bernardino dispatch at (909) 383-5652.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

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Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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