Thursday, December 9, 1999

Missing hiker’s parents
optimistic about finding him

The couple thinks their son, missing
for nine days, has the resolve to survive
getting lost or injured

By Rod Thompson


The parents of a Big Island hiker who disappeared two weeks ago said today they are still hopeful their son will be found alive.

"I'm pretty optimistic. He's a very determined person. He may have gotten hurt or he may have gotten lost. He won't give up. He'll keep on going. He'll keep on surviving," Sharon Reece said of her son John.

The Reeces flew to Oahu today to talk to Honolulu media about the search for their son.

Yesterday, Big Island police said they confirmed Reece had reached Kawaihae in the northern part of the island while hitchhiking on Thanksgiving Day.

John Reece
The U.S. Geological Survey intern
grew up in the Amazon jungle.

Reece disappeared Thanksgiving weekend, when he planned to hitchhike to Pololu Valley, then hike the rugged 10-mile coast to Waipio Valley.

The news that he reached Kawaihae, 25 miles by road from Pololu, heartened Rick and Sharon Reece, who flew to the Big Island Sunday from Texas to help look for their son.

"If we can establish that he got to the trailhead, it's more incentive to keep looking in that area," his mother said.

Since arriving, the couple passed out flyers in Pololu and Waipio and took a short hike to see the valley where their son may have disappeared.

Efforts to find Reese included helicopter searches by state officers who were diverted from looking for marijuana; ground searches by other state crews; and sea searches by a family knowledgeable about the area.

Two experienced hikers with as much as 40 years' experience cutting and maintaining trails along the Pololu-Waipio coast continue looking for him, his mother said.

Reece's boss, Paul Banko of the U.S. Biological Resources Division, said thick vegetation in the area could easily hide someone who might be injured.

Sharon Reese said her son has the spiritual resources to deal with an accident.

The family spent more than 25 years as missionaries in the western Amazon region of Brazil, she said, and as a small boy, Reece was accustomed to cutting his way through jungle with a machete.

He also knows the story of how his father cracked a rib while in a remote area and was forced to wait and pray for two days until he recovered enough to get out of the situation, she said.

Before he left, Reece e-mailed his parents that he expected to "bushwhack" part of the route along the Big Island coast. But the family has not been able to confirm that he took a machete with him.

The family has also sent e-mail to friends and churches all over the world asking for their prayers, she said.

"If the Lord wants to give him back to us, we'll be absolutely delighted," she said.

E-mail to City Desk

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