Shon Meckfessel says three of his friends being detained in Iran made a simple, regrettable mistake by crossing into that country while hiking in Iraq.

In his first statement since his friends were detained last week, Meckfessel says his friends were preparing to turn around just before being captured.

Meckfessel says in an email sent Thursday that freelance journalist Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal left on the evening of July 30 to camp near a place called Ahmed Awa, famous for a beautiful waterfall.

Meckfessel says he spoke with Bauer by phone July 31 and was told the group was enjoying themselves.

About two hours later Bauer called back with news of their detention, urging Meckfessel to call the embassy.