Body of missing El Prado man found in Río Grande Gorge

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A body recovered from the Río Grande Gorge Tuesday (Dec. 19) was confirmed as that of Robert Noga, an El Prado man who was reported missing in late November.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator made a positive identification Thursday morning (Dec. 21, according to Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.

A hiker on the West Rim Trail saw Noga's white Ford Explorer at the bottom of the gorge, and the Taos County Sheriff's Office mobilized a response, according to a Wednesday (Dec. 20) press release.

"Although no wallet or other identification was discovered, the vehicle was identified as Mr. Noga's, as well as the physical and clothing description matching that of the victim," said Hogrefe.

Noga, who was 60 years old, was last seen Nov. 25 and reported missing Nov. 26. His family has been notified, Hogrefe said.

One sheriff's deputy was injured during the Tuesday (Dec. 19) recovery, which Hogrefe called a "treacherous and dangerous operation."

The sheriff's office assessed the situation Monday (Dec. 18) and began the recovery mission Tuesday morning.

The mission required 11 people to descend into the gorge, stabilize the vehicle, extricate the victim from the vehicle and lift the body to the top of the rim, Hogrefe said. The mission took approximately eight hours and involved at least 30 personnel from the sheriff's office, Taos County Emergency Medical Services, the medical investigator's office and volunteer fire departments in Taos, Red River, Carson and Arroyo Hondo.

"Something like this far exceeded TCSO capabilities, so we could not have made the recovery without the equipment and expertise of the other agencies involved," Hogrefe said.

Reporter Jesse Moya contributed to this story.

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