Crews work to recover body after vehicle spotted over side of Hwy. 1

Update, 10:30 p.m.

Emergency crews on Tuesday night were able to successfully recover a body and a deceased dog near a wrecked vehicle discovered off Highway 1 near Ragged Point, said CHP public information officer Patrick Seebart.

The tan-colored vehicle is scheduled to be recovered Wednesday, Seebart said.

Seebert said the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is expected to handle the identification of the body, while the CHP will handle the traffic-related portions of the ongoing investigation.

No additional details were available late Tuesday night.

Original story:

Emergency crews rappelled down a steep hillside in the rain Tuesday evening near Ragged Point to recover a body found near a wrecked vehicle that matches the description of a car driven by a missing Southern California couple.

The vehicle, described as a “very mangled” tan-colored sedan, was spotted a few hundred feet over the edge of Highway 1 approximately 1 mile south of the Ragged Point Inn, according to the CHP.

The body of one person was located near the vehicle, said CHP public information officer Patrick Seebart. The body of a dog was also found nearby. Officials from the CHP, Cal Fire and State Parks responded to the scene.

“We will do our best to recover the bodies (of the person and dog) tonight, but the vehicle will have to wait until tomorrow, or whenever the weather will break and allow for a recovery,” Seebart said in a news release, as rain and the threat of rising tides hampered the effort.

Seebart later confirmed in an email that the vehicle recovery had been delayed until Wednesday, though a possible start time for that effort had not been determined.

The car was discovered at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and initial reports posted on the CHP incident information page said that it could be related to a North Hollywood couple who went missing during a Christmas week trip to Big Sur.

Olivia Hannah Gonzalez, 20, and Brian Fernandez, 21, were driving a tan-colored 2002 four-door Honda Civic with a California license plate number of 5VUD295, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Additional media reports said the couple was traveling with Fernandez’s two dogs.

According to KEYT, the couple’s last known location was at the Cambria General Store, where one of their credit cards was used. The station also reported that family members traveled to Cambria last week to post flyers about the missing couple.

Gonzalez’s sister Vanessa Guzman told the Los Angeles Daily News that she got a call from a reporter Tuesday afternoon that a tan car had been discovered off the highway.

“We’re praying it’s not them,” Guzman said. “We haven’t heard any confirmations yet so we’re trying to stay hopeful. This is a nightmare.”

On Tuesday, officials in San Luis Obispo County did not confirm whether the vehicle or the found bodies were related to the missing couple. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, only the one person and one dog had been recovered, according to the CHP.

A coroner’s unit was dispatched to the scene, said Tony Cipolla, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. At least five Cal Fire engines responded to the scene, including two rescue units, according to a Cal Fire captain.

The vehicle appeared to go over the edge near a large turnout lined with cypress trees.

Cal Fire said the vehicle appeared to have been there “for a while.”

A CHP helicopter spotted the vehicle, but the car was was too damaged to determined whether it was the same one driven by the missing couple.

Cambrian reporter Kathe Tanner and Tribune photographer David Middlecamp contributed to this story.

Mark Powell: 805-781-7915

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