Missing San Diego couple last seen in Sequoia National Park
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A San Diego couple has been reported missing in Central California after they never returned last week from a trip to Sequoia National Park, and in a bizarre twist, evidence has led authorities to search for the couple in the same area where two exchange students’ bodies are still stuck in a car that crashed into a river in late July.
A family member told law enforcement that Yinan Wang, 31, and his wife, 30-year-old Jie Song, were supposed to return to San Diego last Wednesday, but nobody has heard from the couple since last Sunday, Aug. 6., when they planned to go to Crystal Caves in Sequoia National Park. The couple was supposed to drive to Fresno and stay in a hotel that night, then continue to Yosemite National Park the next day.
"However, the relative has not heard from the couple since Aug. 6 and there is no indication they made it to any of the destinations listed above," Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti said.
The couple was last seen driving a white 2012 Ford Focus with California license plate 6XMM431, Botti said. Fresno County sheriff’s deputies and park rangers at Sequoia National Park both took missing persons reports for Wang and Song on Friday.
But in a bizarre twist, the missing persons report didn’t come as a total surprise to sheriff’s deputies, Botti said. That’s because on Aug. 8, a search and rescue deputy discovered the Focus’ detached license plate while watching news footage from the site where a different car is still stuck in the King River after crashing there on July 26.
"The deputy knew (the license plate) did not belong to the red car in the river, which is presumed to have been carrying a man and woman from Thailand who are currently enrolled as exchange students at the University of South Florida," Botti said.
"The Search and Rescue member performed a records check on the plate to see if the vehicle had been reported missing, stolen or involved in an accident. Results showed it belonged to a 2012 Ford Focus and no police reports had been filed in relation to the car."
The sheriff’s office passed along its information about the license plate to the California Highway Patrol, but its significance wasn’t realized until three days later when Wang and Song were reported missing.
After putting together those pieces of information, the sheriff’s office and CHP launched an aerial search for the San Diego couple on Saturday "to see if there are any signs of a white car" in the canyon area where the red car is still stuck in the river. Deputies and officers found some vehicle parts in the water about 40 yards upstream from the red car," Botti said. "At this point, we are unable to determine if the parts belong to the white Ford Focus. Members of Search and Rescue will have to retrieve the parts before drawing any conclusions. No additional bodies have been found in the water. National Parks Service rangers continue to check their parks for Wang and Song."
Botti said the sheriff’s office is now conducting a "parallel investigation involving the Ford Focus" as they continue to plan a way to retrieve the red car an the bodies that are assumed to be inside.
Anyone with information about Wang, Song or their Ford Focus was asked to contact the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 600-3111.