Joshua Tree park missing couple's bodies found after months, dad says

Rachel Nguyen and Joseph Orbeso are seen in this combination of undated photos provided by the National Park Service.

National Park Service via AP

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. -- Authorities say two adult bodies were locked in an embrace when they were discovered in Joshua Tree National Park, near the area where a missing Southern California couple vanished while hiking three months ago.

Gilbert Orbeso, who was with searchers when the discovery was made Sunday, told KESQ-TV they are his son, Joseph Orbeso, 21, of Lakewood and his girlfriend, Rachel Nguyen, 20, of Westminster.

Jodi Miller, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, said Tuesday that officials have yet to identify the remains found in rugged terrain near a popular trail in the desert park. Miller said the bodies were embracing when searchers came upon them.

"I feel like we have closure. We know we found them. That was our main goal, to find them," said Gilbert Orbeso, who frequently joined the months-long search efforts that involved family members, friends, volunteers and law enforcement on the ground and in helicopters.

Joseph Orbeso and Nguyen were reported missing July 28, after they failed to check out of their accommodations near the park. Authorities said a ping from Orbeso's cellphone had been recorded in the park the previous day. The couple's car was later found in the park.

Temperatures topped 100 degrees in late July and it was unclear whether the couple had water and supplies with them.

Autopsies will determine the causes of death, Miller said.

In a Facebook post before the bodies were discovered Sunday, Gilbert Orbeso wrote: "Searching for Joseph and Rachel. God protect and give us strength."

"I believed that I was going to find them. I didn't know when, but I had my answer," Gilbert told KESQ.