A body found at the bottom of a 60-foot-deep earthen shaft in the Anza-Borrego Desert last weekend is that of a college student who disappeared while exploring mud caves in the rugged area with relatives and friends a month ago, the county Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Thursday.
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With help from a private detective, family members of 24-year-old Guillermo Pino Jr. found his remains Saturday by lowering a video camera into one of the inaccessible crevasses that run through craggy hills in the Arroyo Tapiado area of southeastern San Diego County, a locale also known as "the Badlands," authorities reported.
The next day, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department began working to recover the body of the UC San Diego psychology major, aided by cave experts, state parks personnel and the American Red Cross.
The crews had to work with extreme caution due to the ever-present danger of cave-ins, San Diego sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell told reporters. Mine rescuers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department finally got the body out of the narrow hole and onto solid ground about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, she said.
Pino, a Scripps Ranch resident, disappeared about noon April 8, after separating from his companions when they went into a cavern to get out of the midday heat. His sister told authorities they last saw him sitting on a ledge above a cave.
His family reported him missing several hours later. Searchers began combing the remote site on foot and scanning it from aboard a helicopter that evening, then continued the effort off and on for about a week, finding no sign of the young man.
Pino's relatives described him as a "fairly experienced" hiker, though at the time of his disappearance he was exploring the rugged territory without shoes, water, food, a flashlight or a cellphone, officials said.
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