Peru officials say American couple found

Feb. 27, 2013 at 1:22 AM
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LIMA, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Missing American tourists Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand have been found safe in Peru, the country's tourism minister said Tuesday.

The pair of San Francisco-area 25-year-olds, who hadn't been heard from since last month, were on a four-month South American bicycle trip when they dropped out of communication.

Tourism and Commerce Minister Jose Luis Silva said they were spotted "safe and sound" heading up a jungle river in a small boat, CNN said.

"They're currently in a remote, paradise-like region of the Peruvian Amazon, which is difficult to access," he told the U.S. news network.

Hand's mother said in a statement she needs to hear directly from her son before she believes it.

"We have not heard from them since Jan. 25, nor have they accessed bank accounts since that time," Francine Fitzgerald said. "We have only the worst to consider as to why."

Fitzgerald said she wasn't satisfied that both the U.S. Embassy in Peru and the country's Interior Ministry had contacted her to say Neal and Hand had been located.

"Let me reiterate, until we have PROOF OF LIFE, we cannot celebrate these rumors and sightings," she wrote on a Facebook page set up to facilitate a search for the couple. "Proof of life is my son's voice on the phone and a picture of him holding the missing poster."

The Tourism Ministry will send a hydroplane Wednesday to shoot video of the couple and provide proof of the couple's well-being, Silva said.

"They have no idea of the commotion they have caused in the media because they simply can't communicate with family from where they currently are," he said.

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