Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27/17]

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Ric Capucho » Fri Sep 01, 2017 2:00 am

On the couple lost last year at Imperial Sands: much to learn from this, some of which may be relevent for this case.

https://www.reddit.com/r/LosAngeles/com ... /?sort=new

The original firedrill had the authorities scouring JTNP as that was where the couple intended to end their day. They'd told their friends they would spend the day at Imperial Sands and then travel to JTNP to continue their hiking the next day. The friends were waiting for them at JTNP and so the Park seemed to everyone to be on everyone's mind. For some reason everyone assumed they'd successfully wrapped up their Imperial Sands day, reached JTNP and somehow it all went wrong within the Park. The authorities searched the Park high and low, and found no clue.

It was only when the couple self-rescued themselved (they travelled south through Imperial Sands towards a red light on the horizon) and stumbled across someone at a border Tower (from memory) that it became clear they'd been lost from the get go, and this had nothing to do with JTNP. And of course, their car was "found" in plain view at Osborne Lookout- where it had been for days.

What's instructive here?

That an early assumption can sometimes be very misleading; the authorities fixated on JTNP, even though there were plenty of references to Imperial Sands. The car was parked up there, and no one thought to look. In this case, Nguyen's car was found at the Maze Loop and so everyone fixated on the Maze Loop. Ergo, could anyone in authority please have a look in the message boards at Quail Springs, Juniper Flats (is that place cursed?), even Covington Flats, and anywhere else within the Park the couple may conceivably have spent the day, and *not* just fixate on the Maze Loop.

Secondly, self-rescuing people can travel amazing distances through brutal terrain, because they're incentivised by self-preservation to perform superhuman feats. The Imperial Sands couple travelled dozens of miles through sand dunes, so it's not inconceivable that Nguyen/Orbeso scrambled across miles of jumbled rocks that night and ended up far outside of the search area - probably to the East.

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Ed » Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:59 am

Thanks for the map, Perry. Very helpful for me.

I did a little research on what happens when a cell phone overheats. What I found was confusing, for me anyway. The upper end of the operating range for an IPhone is only 95F, evidently. What happens after that is not clear. Sounds like the battery is more of a problem than the chips. But the cell phone may cut out some features to protect itself. Given our everyday experience with cell phones, you wouldn't think there would be a problem at 105F. But perhaps a cell phone was left sitting on a rock for while. But there were two, I assume. That is always the problem for me, explanations for one person become much less likely for two.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Sean » Fri Sep 01, 2017 8:42 am

Perry wrote:Sounds like the decay process starts with the moisture available in the body...


Moisture doesn't cause decomposition. It's necessary, however, to support the activity of organisms that do. These organisms, namely various bacteria, also require other conditions for survival, such as oxygen and favorable temperatures. I've read that bacteria cannot reproduce above 102°F, and they die around 120°F. If the environment cannot support bacterial life, then (in the absence of scavengers) dead human cells are left to break down through autolysis, which doesn't require water, only death and exposure.

Assuming they already used cadaver dogs, and assuming no foul play or staged disappearance, then my guess would be that terrain or distance is the reason the dogs could not find the bodies.


I think that's a fair guess. From what I've read, it's much harder for dogs to pick up scents on dry, sandy ground. Also, if the bodies are concealed by rocks, that could trap or block any odors and reduce the range in which they remain detectable.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Perry » Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:28 am

Sean, I have wondered if dogs that are trained using cadavers from other environments might not search for the same aromatic chemicals and proportions of chemicals of a body in a desert environment. But I would think that the authorities would quickly figure out that the dogs need to be trained specifically using cadavers from a desert environment, if that's necessary. But if it is harder for the dogs in the desert, and Otherhand said he could easily smell remains in Death Valley, then it may be that the aromatic compounds are not uniquely human, so there's too many false positives from dead animals. Just my non-expert guessing here.

Ric, if authorities knew the exact GPS coordinates near Smith Water, why would they say the ping was near the general parking area in the early days of the search?

Is there an easy way to overlay the coverage splash onto a more detailed map and not cover up the terrain with the colors?
http://www.otherhand.org/wp-content/upl ... ussion.pdf (page 4)
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby zippetydude » Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:51 am

That's an intelligent thought Perry. It would be especially helpful on site, since any flat, open areas can reasonably be dismissed, thereby drastically reducing the areas to search.

As far as the dogs, do we even have any specific information that cadaver dogs were ever brought in? If not, there's nothing there to explain.

Incidentally, the predicted high for Sunday is only in the low 80's for JT. If I get a chance I might drive out and look around at the areas we've talked about. If I go I'll take some pics and post them. If anyone else goes, please do the same.

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby cynthia23 » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:25 pm

I like Ric's theory that they may have spent an uneventful day hiking at Smith Water Canyon and then moved their car to the Maze TH for an evening hike. It would explain the mystery of the ping. BTW, the news reports from last week reported that Orbeso's father and the (smaller) SAR crew were searching in Smith Water Canyon, allegedly because the ping was from there. But even if the ping is explained, we're still left with the basic problem of the inability of SAR to find two bodies near the Maze TH.

Zip--re cadaver dogs--wouldn't even 'rescue' dogs alert to a cadaver? I don't think they specialize, per se. When they bring dogs in for various calamities (i.e. collapsed buildings and the like), the dogs alert both to living survivors and dead bodies, I think.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Ed » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:44 pm

I think anybody who entered the park at 6:45am and pinged a cell tower from Smith Water Canyon at 4pm would be looking for AC and a cold drink, not a second experience for the day. Even young, fit people.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby zippetydude » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:51 pm

Good point Ed. That's certainly what I would be doing based upon the temps at the time.

Cynthia - I would think so, although in one article about the dogs alerting to different scents, one trainer said her dog would be "in trouble" if it alerted for a dead animal rather than the scent of decaying human blood. Seems to me like that's overly specific training - a false positive would only take a minute to identify and move on, whereas a false negative makes the use of dogs irrelevant.

The main reason I was wondering about the use of dogs or lack thereof is because the scent is both powerful and normally far reaching. The idea is that you can essentially sweep large areas simply by working a line downwind perpendicular to a suspected area and then work you way back upwind at the sign of any alert. Even with the arid climate it still seems to me that it should have been a highly effective strategy - the odor of a cadaver is many thousands of times stronger than the tiny scent left behind by brushing across plants or sitting down on a rock, so I find it very hard to explain away. Probably the most baffling element of this case in my opinion.

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby cynthia23 » Fri Sep 01, 2017 1:18 pm

Ed raises a good point, unless they spent much of the day napping in the shade. Even then, it seems implausible. But here's one possible theory, relating to the abduction and crime theory--perhaps they completed the Smith Water Canyon hike and returned to their car which was parked elsewhere, pinging at some point. Upon return to their car, a person or persons driving by kidnapped them, or, perhaps, killed them nearby. The criminal moved their car to the Maze TH, to delay the finding of their bodies. Convoluted explanation, and not very likely at all, but would, sort of, explain the facts.

I don't know enough about dogs to know if it's baffling they can't find two dead bodies, although I tend to agree. Most baffling part of this case for me--where do I start?
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Wildhorse » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:09 pm

There could be a lot of rubbernecking on the road and trails in the Maze area as the weather cools.
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