By Mary O’KEEFE
The body of a man thought to be missing hiker Guillermo Pino, 24, has been recovered by members of the Montrose Search and Rescue team in the area of Borrego Springs.
Pino was exploring the area mud caves on April 8 with his family when he went missing about noon. Search teams looked for the man in and around the caves for days without success. Montrose Search and Rescue members had joined in that search.
Family members continued the search and on Saturday discovered what they thought was Pino’s body in a cave. A camera was lowered into an inaccessible nine-inch fissure inside the Hidden Cave. Efforts on Monday to recover the body by the San Bernardino Cave Team were unsuccessful. A request for assistance from MSR was then made by the National Parks Service and San Diego County’s Sheriff’s Department.
Four members of the MSR, three members of Sierra Madre Search and Rescue and three members of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Air-5 traveled to the area on Tuesday.
The body was difficult to get to due to the geography of the area and the position of the body.
“There were two entrances to the cave. He [appeared to have come in] from the top and was stuck from the neck down,” said MSR member Mike Leum.
The body was wedged at the bottom of a cone area, surrounded by silt and debris making recovery difficult and dangerous, Leum stated.
MSR members discovered that the body could be recovered from the lower cave.
“We started removing dirt from around the body from the lower cave. We worked for nine hours digging,” Leum said.
He added that at one point they had requested to tools from San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to help dig.
“We needed an electric chisel and the sheriff’s department went out and got [what we needed],” he added.
The operation was extremely arduous with the possibility of a cave in. After the team was able to free the body, they then had to carry him about 350 feet to the main entrance of the lower cave.
The San Diego Medical Examiner is in the process of verifying the identity of the body and the cause of death.