A reported sighting of an Oklahoma valedictorian who disappeared while hiking with his family in Ecuador has given his family hope that he is still alive, although they suspect he was kidnapped, his aunt says.
August Reiger, 18, mysteriously disappeared on Sunday, June 16, during a mountain hike in Banos after he walked ahead of the group.
Reiger was reportedly then spotted in Ecuador Wednesday riding in the back of a truck. His aunt, Cristi Reiger, told FoxNews.com that Ecuadorean officials held a meeting to discuss the matter and authorities are searching areas around the Amazon rainforest for signs of August or the truck.
“A lot could happen in five or six days,” Cristi Reiger said, noting that the family has not heard of August’s whereabouts since the reported sighting. “The family doesn’t believe August went off on his own. We believe someone has got him, but there’s no way to know for sure until he is seen.”
August Reiger graduated as a valedictorian last month from Oklahoma City's Classen School of Advanced Studies.
His father, Chris, told OKCFox.com that August was only a few minutes ahead of him on the trail when he vanished.
Authorities believe August may have fallen or was kidnapped. More than 100 police officials and volunteers searched the area.
“They've found nothing so far," Chris Reiger said last week from his hotel.
Cristi Reiger said Chris is still down in Ecuador and has no plans of returning in the immediate future.
But she called the reported sighting of August “encouraging.”
“If this is true, this lets us know he’s alive,” she told FoxNews.com. “If he’s being held by somebody we would appeal to those people to show mercy on him and set him free.”
A State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, has been in contact with the Reiger family and is closely monitoring the situation.
"We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen is missing in Ecuador,” Tanya A. Powell told FoxNews.com in an email. “Protecting the well-being of U.S. citizens is one of the Department’s highest priorities, and we take all such reports seriously.”
Cristi Reiger also said that Ecuadorean officials assisting in the investigation into August’s disappearance have been very helpful.