An 18-year-old who graduated as a valedictorian from Classen School of Advanced Studies last month went missing Sunday while on vacation with his family in Ecuador, his father said.
August Reiger was hiking with his younger brother and his parents, Chris and Randa Reiger, in the town of Banos when he disappeared Sunday afternoon, Chris Reiger said.
The family was staying at a hotel in the town, which Chris Reiger described as an Ecuadorean version of Aspen, Colo. The family decided to go hiking Sunday.
“On the mountain there are a couple of trails that take a few hours to make a loop,” Chris Reiger said. “We started on one of them.”
August Reiger went ahead of the rest of the family. When they reached a pavilion at the top of the mountain, they did not see him, and he was not at the hotel when they returned.
“The really strange thing about it is that whatever happened to him was in the space of five or 10 minutes,” Chris Reiger said. “We were right behind him.”
Chris Reiger said local authorities quickly responded and began searching the trails. Dozens of firefighters from across the country are involved in the search, along with the Ecuadorean military. Family members also have been in contact with the U.S. State Department.
“He couldn't have gotten lost,” Reiger said. “The whole of the trail is visible from the hotel. You can see the way down. It's a tourist area, and it's not isolated at all. If he was hurt on the trail, somebody would have seen him.”
Chris Reiger said authorities think August Reiger either fell off a steep ledge just off the trails or was kidnapped, although Banos is considered a safe part of the country.
“A kidnapping has never happened here before,” Chris Reiger said.
The family has not received any ransom calls, which would be likely in an abduction.
“He speaks Spanish,” Chris Reiger said. “He's 18. If he had wanted to go on that hike alone, I would have been fine with it.”
An American who now lives in Ecuador and works with the local authorities has been serving as a translator and keeping the family updated on the search.
“There is a massive search effort,” Chris Reiger said.
“That is the only thing I feel good about. They are doing everything they can.”
School community's reaction
An Oklahoma City Public Schools spokeswoman said August Reiger graduated last month from Classen School of Advanced Studies. He was an International Baccalaureate Valedictorian, a National Merit Scholar and an Oklahoma Academic Scholar.
Dixie Hendrix, president of the parent-teacher association at Classen School of Advanced Studies, said she knows August Reiger and his family.
“He's just a really great kid,” Hendrix said. “About 30 to 40 kids are valedictorian at Classen because so many of them have a high GPA. That means he was certainly a kid who was responsible, did everything he needed to do. He is also a funny guy.”
Hendrix said word of August Reiger's disappearance is spreading among the school community on social media.
“He's not the kind of kid that would cause anybody any trouble at all,” she said.