Body Removed From Desert Cave Confirmed as Guillermo Pino, Jr.

Pino's body was brought out of an Anza-Borrego mud cave by mine rescuers Tuesday night.

Update 1:10 p.m. Thursday: The Medical Examiner's Office today confirmed that the body was indeed that of Guillermo Pino, Jr.

The family of missing San Diego hiker Guillermo Pino reported finding the body down a 60-foot shaft in the Arroyo Tapiado area on Saturday. Pino, 24, went missing April 8 while hiking in the area with his family.

Authorities suspended the search for Pino by April 17 due to the difficulty of working in the rugged, unstable terrain, locally known as "the Badlands." However, Pino's family continued the search. KNX Radio in Los Angeles, a CBS affiliate, reported Tuesday that a private investigator, Bill Garcia of San Diego, helped the family by lowering a camera down the shaft into a mud cave, and that family members were able to see that it was Pino. The family then appealed to authorities and the public for help removing the body, as reported by NBC TV San Diego.

San Bernardino Cave Team rescuers were unsuccessful at recovering the body Monday and requested LASD rescuers make the attempt, according to Sheriff's Reserve Chief Mike Leum, as reported on Montrose Patch.

"His body was wedged at the bottom of a cone area, surrounded by silt and debris making recovery a very difficult and dangerous mission. LA County teams located a small area below Guillermo where debris removal from below was initiated," Leum told Patch.

Besides small hand tools, an electric chisel helped assist the excavation, with the danger of a cave-in always a possibility, Leum said. 

"After nine hours of tedious work, his body was freed and the LA teams proceeded to remove him via the cave's main entrance 350 feet away," Leum said.

Participating in the mission were the Montrose and Sierra Madre LASD SAR teams, along with a cadre from the Department's Emergency Services Detail (who normally staff the Air Rescue 5 helicopter).  

"The family, along with the National Parks Service and the San Diego Sheriff's Office, were extremely grateful to the LASD teams for allowing final closure to this tragic situation," Leum said. "When sometimes a rescue turns into a recovery, we still don't give up. We would want the same closure for our own families if it happened to any one of us."

Pino's family left the immediate area Tuesday night just before the body was brought out, San Diego Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell told Patch on Wednesday. The removal was at 8:45 p.m., she said.

Search and rescue experts from all over Southern California discussed this week how to remove the body respectfully under such tough conditions.

The Sheriff's Department announced at 7:16 p.m. Tuesday that mine rescuers from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department were expected to extricate the body "in a few hours."

The original search for Pino included a total of roughly 60 personnel with the state parks system; the U.S. Border Patrol; the American Red Cross; San Diego Mountain Rescue; the Sycuan Fire Department; and sheriff's deputies from San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.


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