Body found during search for missing hiker in San Diego: Police

ByBill Hutchinson ABCNews logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The body of a woman believed to be a missing 50-year-old hiker was found Monday, a day after she went missing on a trail in a wilderness area in San Diego, according to police.

The hiker, identified by police as Diem Le Nguyen, vanished Sunday morning after she became separated from her hiking group of about 100 people while on the Nighthawk Trail in Black Mountain Open Space Park in the Rancho Peñasquitos area of north San Diego, according to the San Diego Police Department.

A search helicopter spotted a body Monday morning in the area Nguyen was hiking in, police said.

Police said they could not immediately confirm if the body discovered Monday is Nguyen and are waiting for the results of an autopsy. However, police said the search and rescue mission has now switched to a medical examination.

Nguyen set out about 8 a.m. PT on the hike with a group, police said. The group made it about halfway up the mountain before many decided to turn around and head back down because of the heat, Lt. Daniel Meyer, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department said at a news conference Monday.

Nguyen decided to continue the hike to the peak of the mountain on her own, Meyer said.

Meyer said that just after 10 a.m., Nguyen called relatives in distress from the end of the trail, "stating that she was very hot and needed water." That was the last time anyone heard from her, Meyer said.

Around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, police responded to the scene and a search-and-rescue operation was launched, including the deployment of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department helicopter crew.

A photo taken on the trail Sunday of Nguyen flashing a peace sign and standing next to a trailhead sign was released by police on X.

Police officials had asked for the public's help in finding Nguyen, requesting that anyone with information about her whereabouts call 911 immediately.

Nguyen and her group were hiking in high temperatures that enveloped the San Diego area over the weekend. The National Weather Service had issued a heat advisory for the area, where temperatures soared into the low 90s on Sunday.

Police said some members of the hiking group turned back because of the heat, but Nguyen was determined to reach the summit of the 4,048-foot-tall Black Mountain.

When she disappeared, Nguyen was dressed in a black shirt with a pink heart on the front, black pants, a brown hat, sunglasses and a backpack, according to police.

As the search for Nguyen continued Monday, another California hiker said he was thankful to be alive after getting lost on a hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California and spending 10 days in the wilderness before search and rescue crews found him last week.

Luke McClish, 34, of Boulder Creek, California, said he set out on June 11 for what he thought would be a short hike without informing anyone of his plans. Five days later, his family reported him missing when he failed to show up at a Father's Day dinner. When he was found at the bottom of a ravine on Thursday, McClish told rescuers he lost 30 pounds over the 10 days he was missing and survived by drinking a gallon of creek water every day.

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