Authorities in Peru are searching for a missing Oakland, Calif., who disappeared in a remote part of the country during a cycling trip, according to a Feb. 26 Sky News report.
Families of the couple, Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal, fear the couple has been abducted and said they last heard from them on Jan. 25, a day before they were expected to arrive in Lima. “There's a part of me that thinks someone has taken them,” Neal's sister Jennifer told Fox News.
U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals have been warned of kidnapping risks, U.S. Embassy officials in Lima said, but stressed that there was no direct connection between the travel alert and the couple’s disappearance.
According to US Embassy officials, Hand and Neal were traveling several hundred miles from Cusco, in the country's mountainous interior southeast of the capital. “Embassy officers are ... in close contact with Peruvian authorities who are working diligently to find Mr Hand and Ms Neal,” US Embassy officials in Lima said.
“My worries are pretty great,” said Neal's boss, Jeff Jerge. “They had been corresponding fairly regularly, and it ceased that day,” he said, adding that no money has been withdrawn from either's bank accounts since the family lost contact with them.
According to ABC News, this was the couple’s big dream trip. “It's kind of like it was a dream trip for them,” Jerge's wife, Kim Jerge, told ABCNews.com. “It's their first big adventure.”
“They wanted to originally ride from here to South America, and we thought going through Mexico was particularly dangerous, so we talked to them about skipping that, and they did decide to fly down to South America and start their trip there,” Jeff Jerge told ABCNews.com. “At the point they wanted to leave, we all felt it was potentially dangerous.”
There have reportedly been local unconfirmed sightings of the couple from Peruvian police and the Arcoiris ecological community in the Amazon reports Sky News. Statements that families of the couple last from them on Jan. 25 appeared to be at odds with accounts of Peruvian police and the Arcoiris ecological. Arcoiris community members told Reuters the couple had stayed there for five days before traveling by boat to Ecuador on Feb. 16, which is three weeks after the families said they last heard from them.
As the couple cycled on their dream vacation, they frequently posted updates and photos on Facebook, chronicling their journey. They posted photos of camping, the wildlife and the people they met along the way, reports ABCNews.com. The last post was on Jan. 25 and said, “Finally found Kraft Mac 'n' cheese in South America! Stoked LOL.”
Family members and friends are working on a reward fund and plan to distribute flyers with pictures of the couple in Peru.
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