Updated Aug. 1 to include cause of death
Seventh-day Adventist believers in North Mexico are mourning the deaths of two Master Guides who got lost during a camping retreat in a national park.
The bodies of Jhoana Díaz López, 16, and Narcizo Mora Marín, 39, were found after an exhaustive search operation at a national park in the Sierra Juárez Mountains.
“This is one of the most tragic and saddest incidents that our church has faced in its history,” said César Turrubiates, president of the Adventist Church’s Baja California Conference.
“We know that the group had been approved by its church board to make the camping trip after leaders made a preliminary visit to the campsite in March,” Turrubiates said in a video message. “They had plenty of water, food, and the necessary equipment for the weekend retreat.”
Fifteen Master Guides from the of Ojo de Agua and La Morita Adventist churches in Tijuana, Mexico, traveled 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the Nacional Constitucion 1857 Park in Sierra de Juárez for the camping retreat, church leaders said. They completed an early morning walk on July 22 and planned to rest, hydrate, and eat on July 23 before embarking on 5.5-mile (9-kilometer) hike at 4 p.m. that day.
The group split in two for the first 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) of the hike, which would take them to a station where a coordinator would instruct the Master Guides on specific activities. But one group of five Master Guides took a wrong turn, never arriving at the station. Mora and Diaz were in that group.
That evening, church leaders were notified that a girl from Tijuana had been hospitalized in Tecate.
Local church leaders alerted park authorities, and a search and rescue operation began for the missing group. Two missing members of the group were found within hours.
Early July 24, church leaders rented a helicopter for the search while park authorities, firefighters, and other search personnel continued on the ground.
“Sadly, Mora’s body was recovered on July 25, and Díaz the next day,” Turrubiates said. “We have been ministering to the surviving families from the very beginning and organized all transportation and arrangements during this tragedy.”
The authorities said the cause of death was a combination of high temperatures and a lack of water.
Church members crowded the Ojo de Agua Adventist Church in Tijuana on July 28 for a funeral service for Díaz. Dozens of Master Guides from local churches later gathered at the burial site to pay their respects to their fellow guide.
Jhoana Díaz López is survived by her mother, stepfather, and older brother.
Narcizo Mora will be buried in Mexico's state of Guerrero this weekend. He is survived by his wife, Eva, and two sons ages 8 and 2.
Turrubiates thanked church members for their prayers during the search and appealed for more prayers for those affected by the tragedy.
Al Powell, youth ministries director for the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division, whose territory includes Mexico, said youth directors and young people throughout the division were also praying.
“May you feel the reassurance and comfort that only Jesus can give,” he said. “Remember that very soon He will return as promised and He will give life back to those who await. And we will never part again.”