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Bay Area Couple Missing in Peru Reportedly Seen in Village

Family reports Oakland's Garrett Hand and girlfriend Jamie Neal as having disappeared during South American bike trip on Jan. 25.

An Oakland couple believed to be missing on a bike trip in Peru have reportedly been seen in a local village, family members said Tuesday afternoon.

An extensive search effort headed by family members has been under way after all communication stopped coming in from Garrett Hand, 25, and his girlfriend, Jamie Neal, at the end of January.

They had left for a South American bike trip in late November and had been in constant communication, mostly through social media, throughout the trip until Jan. 25.

At 3 p.m. 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.

RELATED COVERAGE:

Bay Area Couple Goes Missing in Peru

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