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Missing hiker's family: Body is in dangerous desert cave

SAN DIEGO -- A mine rescue team from Los Angeles will help recover a man’s body discovered in the Anza Borrego Desert east of San Diego.

The remains may be those of hiker Guillermo Pino, Jr., who has been missing since Easter Sunday.

“We have never given up and we didn’t and we found him,” Guillermo Roberto Pino Sr. said Monday night.


After weeks of searching and two days spent trying to recover the body, the Pino family now faces another setback.

Search and rescue workers suspended the recovery effort Monday when a geology expert with the State Parks agency agreed the area was too unstable to continue.

The body is wedged in a 50-foot hole inside a mud cave where searchers say the walls are so soft and sandy that they are crumbling.

The caves are pitch-black narrow holes that wind around and drop into deeper holes.

After working at the site for most of the day Monday, a specialized cave rescue team determined the work was too treacherous.

"We're trying to get the soil stabilized first of all so you don't have a cascade, an avalanche of soil as you make some progress. And you don't want to make the situation worse than it is," said Jan Caldwell with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Pino’s father is now asking for help from the state to complete the recovery effort.

“I would like to formally make a request to CALEMA, the California Emergency Management Agency, to please provide the efforts for the extraction of my son with a vacuum cleaner with the capacity to suck up dirt from a distance of 40 to 50 feet,” Pino said.

He’s also pleading with anybody who may have an industrial- grade vacuum cleaner or comparable technology to help.

When asked if such equipment existed, an exasperated Pino said “This is America.”

The family hired a private investigator to lower a camera into the deep hole over the weekend. They said clothing appears to identify the body as Pino.

See video and read the original report at NBCSanDiego.com

The next step involves a mine rescue team, affiliated with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, that arrived Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. They’ll evaluate the area and try to figure out a way to shore-up the walls to send someone down there safely.

So far the mine team has tested the terrain and has tried different techniques to see if the sand can withstand the weight. Around 20 crew members with the LA County mine team, sheriffs state park agency are on the premises.

Pino disappeared on Easter Sunday while on a hike with several family members.

His father thanked everyone who showed up to help in the search. Some of those volunteers were strangers.

“They just kept us going, kept us going for the last three weeks until we found him,” he said.

He also thanked the “countless” others who have helped the family physically or spiritually.

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