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Oakland Couple Missing In Peru Reportedly Found Safe

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(L-R) Jamie Neal, Garrett Hand (Facebook)

(L-R) Jamie Neal, Garrett Hand (Facebook)

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – An Oakland couple missing on a bike trip in Peru may have been found safe, according to family members.

Twenty-five-year-old Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Garrett Hand, were in the midst of a six-month trek through South America when their frequent Facebook messages and phone calls stopped coming after the two boarded a bus in Peru on Jan. 25.

Neal’s sister, Jennifer, said an official from the U.S. Embassy in Peru called them to say that someone in another town had seen Hand and her sister and advised them to contact the police because they had been reported missing.

“The police are saying that he called in and gave them his passport number,” she said, but Garrett and Hand have yet to contact the embassy or the family directly.

“As much as I want to believe everything that everyone’s saying, until I hear my sister’s voice, I’m not sure,” Neal said.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell and Patti Reising Interview Jennifer Neal:

Peruvian police said they would not be able to confirm Garrett’s identity until he reaches the border on Wednesday.

Tuesday afternoon, Hand’s mother Francine Fitzgerald released in a family statement that the U.S. Embassy and Peruvian government officials had called informing family members that the couple had been seen in a remote village in Peru.

She was told the two were on a boat on a river and that a plane was being sent to find them.

Fitzgerald wrote she was expecting an update Wednesday and is continuing the search effort.

“Until I hear from and see my son directly, we will not stop,” she wrote. “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.”

The couple had been documenting their trip online. Social media posts dropped off around the same time the financial activity stopped, family
members said.

The last post on Neal’s Facebook was on Jan. 23, when the pair arrived in Cusco, Peru.

Hand, a commercial fisherman in the Bay Area, posted in Spanish on his Facebook page from Cusco on Jan. 25. about traveling through Lima, Peru, to another area in Peru.

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Embassy in Lima posted an emergency message warning of a potential kidnapping threat in the Cusco area.

“The Embassy has received information that members of a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap U.S. citizen tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area,” the message reads.

The threat is listed as credible through the end of February

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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