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Body found off Hwy. 1 is missing North Hollywood woman, sheriff says

The scene where North Hollywood couple's car went off Hwy. 1 cliff near Ragged Point

The San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office confirmed that the woman's body found near the tan sedan that went over the side of Highway 1 near Ragged Point was that of Olivia Hannah Gonzalez, 20, of North Hollywood. The sedan was found Tuesday afternoon.
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The San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office confirmed that the woman's body found near the tan sedan that went over the side of Highway 1 near Ragged Point was that of Olivia Hannah Gonzalez, 20, of North Hollywood. The sedan was found Tuesday afternoon.

The body recovered from the base of a cliff near Ragged Point has been identified as Olivia Hannah Gonzalez, the North Hollywood woman who went missing on a Christmas week trip to Big Sur with her boyfriend.

Gonzalez’s body and the body of a light-brown Labrador retriever mix were found Tuesday near the twisted wreckage of a tan sedan wedged in between rocks on the rugged shoreline hundreds of feet below Highway 1.

Emergency crews rappelled down the steep hillside Tuesday night to reach the site but postponed efforts to recover the car Wednesday because of the heavy rains.

No sign has yet been found of Brian Fernandez, 21, also of North Hollywood.

“Where the car came to rest right at the surfline, he possibly could have been ejected from the car and into the water,” San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said. “He might be underneath the wreckage, but until the car is able to be recovered, we won’t know the answer to that.”

He added that the Sheriff’s Office does not suspect foul play.

Gonzalez and Fernandez were last seen Dec. 23. Family members became alarmed when they didn’t return in time for the holiday as planned.

Vanessa Guzman, Gonzalez’s sister, set up a GoFundMe account Wednesday afternoon.

“She was an amazing person and my best friend,” Guzman wrote of Gonzalez. “Every time we look at the sun shining down on us we will think of you.”

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

On Wednesday afternoon, the car remained stuck in the rocks.

A San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office dive crew, as well as sheriff’s search and rescue crews, searched the vicinity for any sign of Fernandez.

The California Highway Patrol is in charge of recovering the vehicle, but officials may not be able to pull it up until Thursday or Friday because of the weather conditions, according to CHP public information officer Patrick Seebart.

Seebart said the San Luis Obispo Coast District of the California State Parks originally reported the wrecked car to the CHP.

Dan Falat, State Parks district superintendent, said he did not know how the rangers spotted the car, but “we do patrol that stretch of coast routinely.”

Cipolla said the Sheriff’s Office had not sent out any crews searching for the couple prior to the discovery of the car because they did not have a defined search zone of where to look.

However, they had kept a lookout for the couple and their vehicle at the request of the LAPD. Seebart said the CHP had done the same.

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 fliers about the missing couple.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee talks about the recovery operation along Highway 1 south of Ragged Point, where a car and a body were discovered hundreds of feet down a cliff Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The vehicle's description was similar to that o

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

Tribune reporter Mark Powell and Cambrian reporter Kathe Tanner contributed to this story.

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