Authorities in Ecuador are officially treating the disappearance of an Oklahoma City valedictorian as a kidnapping case, according to family members searching for the teen.
The case is now receiving international attention after News 9 broke the story Tuesday. The family says there have been thorough searches along the hiking trails where the teen was last seen. Three days later, the mystery continues.
Classen SAS graduate August Reiger went missing Sunday from a mountain near his Baños resort where he had been staying for the last week. The teen was hiking with his family when he went ahead of the group, according to family members. His dad had hoped to see August at a popular landmark along the trail.
"We assumed that he'd be sitting there waiting for us," Chris Reiger said via phone Tuesday. "In fact, the second son had gotten there before us, and he was sitting there waiting … but he hadn't seen his brother."
The U.S. Embassy says it is in close contact with the Reiger family while the State Department continues to warn of the dangers in the area.
"There is an advisory, and it's critical down there," Oklahoma City travel agent Jennifer Waldron said.
Waldron advises visitors in South America to travel in groups.
"Americans go missing all the time," Waldron said. "It happens more [frequently] than we actually know."
Those familiar with Ecuador say kidnappings are more common in the northern part of the country, near Colombia. August was far from that area.
"[Baños] is kind of like a small town, and it's very safe," Joseph Matias, Ecuadorian native and UCO graduate said.
Matias was born and raised in Ecuador. He says the city where August went missing is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
"That area, Baños, [is in the south central] part of Ecuador, so there should not be any problem there," Matias said.
The family was one week into a two-week vacation when August vanished. Chris says the last few days don't even seem real.
"It's just unbelievable," Chris said. "The first day, I kept think I was going to wake up."
The family tells supporters in Oklahoma City that roughly 150 people searched for August on Tuesday. Those close to August say there is no reason for him to run away.