Two bodies were extracted from a car that had been stuck in the Kings River of Sequoia National Park, possibly since late July.
The bodies are presumed to be a 28-year-old man and 24-year-old woman who were exchange students at the University of South Florida, and residents of Thailand, Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR).
At approximately 6 a.m. on Friday, SAR and California Highway Patrol (CHP) began steps to extract the bodies by lowering personnel and equipment via helicopter into the area where the vehicle was stuck between two rocks, according to a statement.
The bodies were discovered on July 7 through aerial footage after CHP was notified of a crash that sent a vehicle through a guard rail and down a 500-foot cliff on July 6.
The extraction was delayed until Friday due to dangerous river conditions, according to SAR.
Upon recovery of the bodies, family members of the presumed victims performed a short ritual before the bodies were taken to a coroner station for identification.
"I would like to thank the families of the victims for their patience and understanding during this long, difficult process," said Fresno Sheriff-Coroner Margaret Mims. "It’s always been our goal to deliver peace to you so that you could hold the necessary services for your loved ones."
Sheriff’s deputies also located another vehicle downstream of the red Sonata, and believe it may be a Chinese couple from San Diego who went missing around August 6.
The bodies of Yinan Wang, 31, and his wife, Jie Song, 30, have not been located, and the second wreck has not yet been confirmed to be the white Ford Focus they were driving, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
SAR said retrieving the bodies has always been a top priority, but deputies are waiting until river conditions improve to recover the second wreckage.