US couple missing in Peru reported to have been found, but family remain cautious
Confirmed sighting of pair travelling by boat, authorities sending plane to pick them up
The American couple who went missing on a cycling holiday in Peru are reported to be safe and well. According to a report on the NBC Bay Area website, Garrett Hand, who has been travelling through Latin America since December with his girlfriend Jamie Neal, asked a fellow passenger on a boat trip to Ecuador with them to make contact with his family to confirm that they are fine. A further report says that police have now made contact with the pair.
As we reported yesterday, the pair, both aged 25 and from Oakland, had not been in contact with family or friends since late January, leading to mounting concern about their safety.
On the Facebook page that has been set up to co-ordinate efforts to locate them, Garrett's mother, Francine Fitzgerald, posted at 3pm PST (11pm GMT) on Tuesday evening a message (text below) confirming the latest official update, although she made it clear that she would not be satisfied the search is over until she has been reunited with her son.
Shortly after that message was posted, a story filed on the website of Silicon Valley-based Mercury News quoted Miguel Antezana, communications director of Peru's Foreign Commerce and Tourism Ministry as confirming to Sacramento TV channel News 10 that police had located the pair.
"The couple was found on the Napo River at a place called Angoteros," he said. "There they talked to the police and were very surprised by all the questions. They finally asked, what's going on and the police told them about all the worry, etc. and they were of course very surprised."
Shaun Carr from the Pedaler Bike Shop in El Sobrante, California, where Jamie worked and which has been helping lead the search, said: "Elation, elation is what it is. You hear these horror stories about people in South America. We're just over the moon. It's a good result, and we're all super stoked."
The message reads:
FITZGERALD FAMILY STATEMENT
Francine Fitzgerald, mother to Garrett Hand
February 26, 2013
3 pm PST
U.S. EMBASSY AND PERUVIAN MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR CLAIM THAT GARRETT HAND AND JAMIE NEAL HAVE BEEN SEEN IN LOCAL VILLAGE
We have received phone calls from the U.S. Embassy and Peruvian government that my son Garrett Hand and his girlfriend Jamie Neal have been spotted in a remote village in Peru. The information told to me is that they are on a boat on the river and that they are sending a plane to find them. I am told to expect information by tomorrow sometime.
While I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of the media, the U.S. and Peruvian governments, until I hear from and see my son directly, we will not stop. This young couple is someone’s son and brother, someone’s daughter and sister and United States citizens. We have not heard from them since January 25, nor have they accessed bank accounts since that time. We have only the worst to consider as to why.
Thank you those of you who are helping – friends, family, reporters, officials – and our task is done when Garrett and Jamie are home and safe.