Medical examiner: Missing hiker suffocated to death inside cave - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Medical examiner: Missing hiker suffocated to death inside mud cave

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Suffocation was the cause of death of a college student who was missing for nearly a month after slipping into a narrow earthen chasm in a rugged, hilly section of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on Easter Sunday, the county Medical Examiner's Office reported Friday.

Guillermo Pino Jr., 24, went missing while exploring mud caves with relatives and friends in the Arroyo Tapiado area of southeastern San Diego County, a locale nicknamed "the Badlands."

Pino, a Scripps Ranch resident, disappeared about noon April 8, after his companions 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.

Search-and-rescue crews combed the rugged locale in vain for about a week before suspending the effort.

Last Saturday, Pino's brother-in-law found the remains of the UC San Diego psychology major by lowering a video camera, loaned to the family by a private investigator, into one of the crevasses that run through dried-mud slopes and precipices in the desolate area.

Due to a high danger of cave-ins, it took mine-rescue experts several days to safely remove the body from the roughly 60-foot-deep hole, according to sheriff's officials.

An autopsy determined that Pino succumbed to asphyxiation due to the position he wound up in at the bottom of the fissure, according to the medical examiner. The time of his death was unclear.

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