August 4, 2005

Family searches for Texan hiker missing in Nepal

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The family of a 25-year-old American
hiker missing in Nepal for two weeks stepped up their search
for him around Mount Everest Thursday after making an emotional
appeal for information.

Trevor Stokol went missing on July 22 while trekking near
Everest base camp. Thursday, a helicopter will make a second
aerial search of the area, and drop supplies for a team of
trackers led by an Australian search and rescue expert.

"We have not given up hope. We need your help," his father,
Arnold Stokol, told reporters Wednesday.

Members of the Stokol family came to Nepal to coordinate
the search after being told by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu
that he had disappeared.

So far the search party has found no trace of Trevor in the
beautiful but rugged Khumbhu region, where the 8,850-meter
(29,035 feet) summit of Everest is located.

Arnold, an optician from Dallas, Texas, appealed to locals,
to keep an eye out for their son.

Trevor, who was on the final leg of an eight-month tour of
South and Southeast Asia before going to medical school in
Dallas, had phoned his family before setting off for the 5,350
meter (17,650 feet) Everest base camp.

"He was extremely, extremely excited about the final leg of
his trip and returning to his family and dog," said the
53-year-old Arnold, holding photographs showing his son with
curly brown hair and a full beard.

Every year thousands of foreigners visit Nepal, home to
eight of the world's 14 highest mountains. A total of 185
mountaineers have died on the slopes of Mount Everest, the
world's tallest peak.

Arnold said his son, an enthusiastic photographer, was
extremely strong, tenacious and had excellent survival skills.

"It is possible that he got disoriented as a result of
altitude sickness or hypothermia and has wandered down the
valley," he said.

"It is also possible that he is injured and immobilized at
any location, either near the area where he was last seen or
further down the mountain."

Trevor was carrying a camera, some snack food and a bottle
of water when he went missing after leaving his hiking
companion behind.

Arnold said he thought it unlikely that Maoist guerrillas,
active throughout the Nepali countryside, had abducted his son.
Maoists do collect money from foreign trekkers as "tax" but
have so far not harmed or captured any foreign tourists.

Arnold said a fund had been set up in the United States to
help pay for the search.