More than a week after August Reiger went missing in Ecuador, authorities are as baffled by his disappearance as is his increasingly frustrated family.
Police are treating Reiger's case as a kidnapping in part because there is no other logical explanation for where the 18-year-old Oklahoma City resident could be. The U.S. State Department is working with Ecuadorean officials to help locate him. There is also discussion of offering a reward in the case, family members said.
Ecuadorean authorities told family members someone reported seeing Reiger in the back of a pickup headed toward the country's Amazon region. Christi Reiger, August Reiger's aunt said Tuesday they don't know how credible the sighting is.
“The one thing we know for sure is August would not leave his family willingly,” said Randa Reiger, August Reiger's mother. “That is not even a possibility. He has no money. We have his passport. He bought jewelry for his girlfriend and left it at the hotel. He has no extra clothes, not a single dollar.”
Regier, 18, graduated as a valedictorian last month from Classen School of Advanced Studies. As a graduation present, his parents took him and his younger brother to Ecuador for vacation. The family was hiking June 16 on a mountain trail near the town of Banos when August Reiger disappeared without a trace.
His father, Chris Reiger, said August was hiking slightly ahead of the rest of the family. When they got to their meeting point, he wasn't there. They hiked back to the hotel, and he wasn't there either.
At first, authorities assumed August Reiger got lost or fell after wandering off the trail on the mountain. But thorough searches of the mountain turned up nothing. Getting lost would be difficult as the hotel and the way down the mountain are visible from any point of the trail, Chris Reiger said.
Randa Reiger said authorities — including police, firefighters and the Ecuadorean military — have searched the entire mountain and found no trace of her son, even in spots where he might have fallen.
“It's been 10 days,” Randa Reiger said. “If he were injured, he would be dead by now. There would be vultures. There is no sign of that.”
Frustration, but hope
The most logical explanation for what happened is a kidnapping, but there have been no ransom demands, and the area where the family was hiking is considered a safe part of the country with no history of abductions.
“If that is the case, he's in the hands of desperate and bad people,” Christy Reiger said. “But at the same time, it is reason for hope. Right now we have great hope that he is still alive.”
August Reiger's parents met Tuesday with a police kidnapping unit. Christi Reiger said family members have been told kidnappers in the region often don't immediately send ransom demands.
The continued lack of information about what happened to August Reiger is building frustration among family members.
“Yesterday evening, getting that notice that there had been a sighting, it was the first kind of light we've had since this all started,” Christi Reiger said.
Ecuadorean authorities have done a commendable job searching for August, Randa Reiger said. His disappearance is a national story, and his parents have met with the nation's chief of police, tourism minister and interior minister, as well as U.S. State Department officials in the country.
“They are taking it very seriously and doing whatever they can,” Randa Reiger said. “They have got his picture all over the place. They are doing a massive search.”
Several relatives have flown in to help support Reiger's parents and brother. Randa Reiger said she doesn't know whether the family is going to stay in the area where their son went missing or relocate to Quito, the capital.
“Just keep praying for us,” Randa Reiger said. “Pray for his safety and his return.”