Authorities confirmed Wednesday that a body found over the side of Pacific Coast Highway in San Luis Obispo County was that of a woman who went missing along with her boyfriend after they left for a pre-Christmas road trip to Big Sur.
Olivia Hannah Gonzalez, 20, and Brian Fernandez, 21, left Dec. 23 with their two dogs on what was to be a weekend trip. They had been expected home on Christmas Day, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
On Tuesday, the Honda Civic the couple took on their trip was found over the side of the roadway, and the woman's body was found nearby, along with one of the dogs, a light brown Labrador retriever mix.
Positive identification was made Wednesday afternoon, said LAPD Officer Jenny Hauser, but Fernandez remains missing, along with the other dog.
Firefighters were called about 3:35 p.m. Tuesday to the crash scene south of Ragged Point in the San Simeon area, which was spotted by a helicopter crew, said Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.
Gonzalez's body was recovered by rescue crews on Tuesday night, Cipolla said.
She and the dog were found about 15 feet from the car, which was about 325 feet over the side of PCH, California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Seebart said.
Cipolla said the vehicle was found right at the surfline and Fernandez' body could have been ejected into the ocean, so sheriff's dive teams were searching the water while search-and-rescue teams traversed steep, rocky terrain.
"Additionally, we're getting deluged with rain and that really hampers the search effort,'' he said Wednesday afternoon.
The difficult conditions will keep the vehicle from being recovered until Thursday or Friday, Cipolla said, adding that Fernandez body could still be found beneath the wreck.
Sheriff's detectives were at the scene looking for clues as to what happened, although no conclusions have been reached, Cipolla said.
Loved ones gathered Wednesday evening for a vigil to remember Gonzalez's life.
"The only word I could use to describe her is literally life because she was so full of life," her friend, Lindsay Garcia said. "She was full of light, she was full of love, she was so humble."
Family and friends of Fernandez are holding out hope he's found alive.
"I hope they find him," Garcia said. "I wasn't super close with Brian, but I knew him and Olivia cared about each other."
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