Family Frantic: East Bay Couple on Bike Trip Missing in Peru

By Jodi Hernandez and Christie Smith
|  Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 1:26 PM PDT
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Family and friends of a missing Oakland couple bicycling through South America are frantically looking for the couple, who usually stay connected overseas through computers and social media. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez reports.

Family and friends of a missing Oakland couple bicycling through South America are frantically looking for the couple, who usually stay connected overseas through computers and social media. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez reports.

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Family Frantic: East Bay Couple on Bike Trip Missing in Peru

Family and friends of a missing Oakland couple bicycling through South America are frantically looking for the couple, who usually stay connected overseas through computers and social media. Jamie Neal, 27, and her boyfriend Garrett Hand, 25, were last seen in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 26. Christie Smith spoke to Hand's mother, Francine Fitzgerald.

Bike Shop Owner Worried About Couple Missing in Peru

Jeff Jerge, owner of the Peddlar Bike shop in El Sobrante, is worried about Jamie Neal, 27, and her boyfriend Garrett Hand, 25, were last seen in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 26. Jodi Hernandez reports.
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Family and friends of a missing Oakland couple bicycling through South America are frantically looking for the couple, who usually stay connected overseas through computers and social media.

Jamie Neal, 25, and her boyfriend Garrett Hand, 25, were last seen in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 26.

The couple's tour of Argentina, Chile and Peru began in November, and is documented in frequent posts on Neal's Facebook page.

But they vanished from the social media map Jan. 25, and have not been heard from since they arrived in Lima after biking in the Cusco region of Peru.

Francine Fitzgerald, Hand's mother in Concord, told NBC Bay Area on Monday that she's very worried because all activity has stopped on her son's bank account. "We are trying to figure out how he would be on buses, staying in hostels, being on boats, without any money," she said.

She also hasn't seen a Facebook post or an email for a month. "Somebody knows where he is," she pleaded. "Someone is with them, somewhere, so we need them to call us. We need them to come home."

Neal's friends are worried, too.

"I really am deeply concerned about her situation," said Jeff Jerge, the owner of The Peddlar bike shop in El Sobrante where Neal has worked for the last two years. "I'm extremely concerned I'm very fearful something bad has happened and not as likely they're out on an excursion. That contact has ceased."

Multiple media outlets have reported that the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Lima are helping search for the couple. Those reports could not be independently corroborated on Sunday, as no one could be reached for comment.

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Embassy in Lima warned Americans of a potential kidnapping threat by an unnamed criminal organization in the Cusco area. The embassy reported the threat to be "credible at least through the end of February."

Until then, Jerge has made up fliers that he's posting on Facebook and with online travel groups.

"I want them to know we're looking for them and we want them to contact us and tell us they're okay, and we want them to return on time and safe," he said. 

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