After a long, frantic month of combing hundreds of caves throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for any signs of missing UC San Diego graduate Guillermo Pino, Jr., 25, he was discovered dead last Saturday at the bottom of a 60-foot crevice.
Pino had gone hiking on Easter Sunday with a group of friends. They last saw him in the park's storied Arroyo Tapiado mud caves, according to the Facebook page “Find Guillermo Pino Jr.” And it was in the deepest of those caves, a dark and winding crevice known as “Hidden Cave”…
… that he was reportedly discovered Saturday around 5 p.m.
According to CBS LA, private investigator Bill Garcia “lowered a special camera” into the crevice until it happened to hit the victim's body. Garcia tells the station:
“The camera came to rest at the bottom on his right shoulder, and as the camera was pulled back, you were able to see him from his waist up to above his head. … It appears that he fell feet first, at one point he either hit bottom or his shoulders were broad enough to actually hold him in a particular position, and then the debris that was knocked down around him actually filled up to about his waist.”
Indeed, Pino's friends originally told investigators that Pino was standing atop a cliff, asking them to bring him a pair of shoes, the last time they saw him.
One of the women who was with him recalled his fateful ascent:
“Jr decided to go ahead of us and barefoot, with no flashlight, he managed to get through the pitch black cave until we reached him at the point within the cave of climbing a rope up about 10-15 feet above us to get to a vertical shaft we would have to free climb with help from a rope from up top the mountain. Needless to say I couldn't do it, and my best friend and I walked back to camp through the cave, the same way we came in. By then the boys had already climbed to the top of the mountain, and came down the side of it. Guillermo was still up above us when we came back through the caves entrance. Around noon, on Sunday, we began calling out to him to come down the same side the boys had come down earlier, but he insisted on resting his feet. 20mins go by and we begin calling to him again only to get no response.”
Assisted by agencies ranging from U.S. Customs and Border Patro to the Sycuan Fire Department, the San Diego Sheriff's Department led search efforts until about mid-April. At that point, however, they declared the rough Anza-Borrego terrain too much of a hassle to navigate, reports Sierra Madre Patch. But friends, family and concerned volunteers didn't give up hope, and kept searching for Pino with the help of private investigator Garcia.
When the missing young man was finally located on Saturday, a new challenge arose: How to “respectfully” pull him the depths of an unstable, pencil-thin crevice carved in the Anza-Borrego mudlands.
Along with various other emergency-service agencies, eight members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Emergency Services Detail were sent in to pull out Pino, says Lieutenant Jack Ewell.
According to Ewell, the L.A. search-and-rescuers were requested due to their extensive “training in cave rescue.”
We've contacted the San Diego Sheriff's Department for more details on exactly how Pino was pulled from the bottom of Hidden Cave. But it had to be a tricky operation, judging by the stories that hikers have shared about that particular crevice.
Here's one that Eric Su posted to the “Find Guillermo Pino Jr.” Facebook page. And here's a recent video of some explorers with headlamps, navigating the less clogged parts of Hidden Cave:
Pino graduated from UCSD in 2009 with a degree in psychology, according to his Facebook page. His loved ones have described him as an adventurous, life-loving guy. The last words his friends heard him say: “It's so beautiful up here.”