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Oceanside hiker missing in Joshua Tree National Park

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Posted at 10:27 AM, May 25, 2021

(KGTV) — San Bernardino County authorities are searching for a 20-year-old man from Oceanside who disappeared at Joshua Tree National Park.

Joseph "Joey" John Alvarez Espinoza was last seen by his grandmother who dropped him off for a hike on Sunday, May 16, according to the National Park Service. Park staff were made aware that he may be in the park a week later and began their search that day. He is believed to be alone.

Joey Espinoza was last seen about 30 miles east of Twentynine Palms on Highway 62, as he was walking south into the desert, NPS said.

He is described as a Hispanic male, standing 5'8" and weighing 300 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a dark blue or black tee shirt with "Matthew 4:4" on the back, black cargo pants, and black shoes. He was also carrying a canteen, but did not have camping equipment.

ABC 10News spoke to Esinoza's uncle, David Espinoza who lives in San Marcos.

"We just want to know that he's ok," the uncle said.

By Wednesday, May 19, there was no communication from Joey, so the family filed a missing person's report. They noticed that he had left his phone at his Oceanside home.

David Espinoza said the whole thing is strange. He said his nephew, a 20-year-old self-described homebody, never really ventured out of North County. He has always been close with his family and never kept anyone out in the dark.

As the days went on, Espinoza said that the family's worries had grown exponentially. They are hoping that this is somehow just one big mistake.

"Joey, if you are watching this or if you see this, I just want you to know that I love you, your mom loves you, your grandmas love you, your tios, your tias, all of your cousins, all of your family. We're just worried about you. We want to know that you are safe and come home," Espinoza said.

Authorities from San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol are assisting in the search. Since last week, there have been about 15 reports of sightings, but they have all turned up empty.

Anyone with information is asked to call or text NPS's investigation tip line at 760-401-3075. Rangers are asking anyone conducting a private search to stop so that areas are not disturbed during their investigation.