FIND JUSTIN ALEXANDER SHETLER
Thank you to all of you who have expressed concern. We wanted to give you an update with all the information we have at this point.
WHAT WE KNOW:
Justin Alexander Shetler is missing.
He left with a local holy man on or about the 24th of August. He has not been seen since September 3rd, when he was photographed returning from his trek. According to the accounts of the hikers (whom he knew and met on the trail) he had not eaten in 2 days and was severely underweight & physically depleted. The holy man had passed by the hikers about 30 minutes prior to Justin. Attached is the last known photo of Justin, as well as a picture of him healthy and nourished for contrast.
Justin was on his way down from Mantalai Lake in the Parvati valley trek between Khir Ganga and Mantalai. He had separated from the Baba (the Sadhu holy man referred to above) with whom he had trekked up the mountain. He refused an invitation to join the hikers (one pictured in first photo), saying that he wanted to get back to his things and to a good source of internet where he could edit his latest video and rest. The Baba has been questioned, but has a conflicting story.
From the spot he was last seen, it is a two or three day hike to get back to Khir Ganga and an additional 10kms (3hrs) to where his motorcycle was parked.
He never made it.
Justin’s motorcycle and some of his belongings have been found, untouched.
MOST CURRENT INFORMATION:
While there are still many open questions, the following captures what we know to date.
Justin was last seen on September 3rd. He was due to be back mid to late September.
We have confirmed reports from multiple sources that a local search party made up of 15-20 people plus 7 police officers has been dispatched to the area. After being reported missing Monday, October 3, the search party was dispatched Wednesday, October 5. Due to the remote nature of area, however, they only arrived to the Khir Ganga area on the afternoon of Friday, October 7. They were seen headed up toward the area where Justin was last confirmed to be seen and the police are in contact with members of the party that last saw Justin.
It takes several days to travel to this location and many places are not accessible except by foot. Although we are in contact with the lead officer heading this investigation through an Indian trekking guide, it might be a number of days before reports come in from the searchers/police on the trail, given the lack of cellular communications in the mountainous area.
Below is a map of the GPS coordinates (31°53'41.9"N 77°45'44.1"E) where Justin was last seen. The hikers he encountered attest that this is accurate within 1000 meters, as of Sept 3 and 1:50pm local time.
The below picture is of 2 shepherds seen by the hikers (heading East), pictured with their guide, on the same trail three hours before running into Justin (heading West) on September 3. Justin would have presumably passed them on his way down. We are working to identify the shepherds now, and find out whether or not they saw Justin and/or the Baba, which will help us to narrow down the search area even further.
We are facing incredible challenges finding traction with the authorities, including our own US governmental assistance. We have one contact in the embassy in Delhi, and while we have contacted members of the US State Department we are still waiting on a response from them.
Corruption in the area in which he was last seen runs rampant. There are reports of drug trafficking and many cultural differences/language barriers are in play, which makes things more difficult.
We have our own people on the ground spreading the word, shaking the trees, and gathering intelligence as well as searching the most promising areas. We want to thank the hikers, trekkers, embassy contacts, police and locals in the area who have been instrumental in providing valuable information and giving us the latest updates.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Please donate to this fundraiser--anything will help--and your generosity is highly appreciated. We are using that money as judiciously as we can and only in the most high leverage, high potential efforts.
We are looking for anyone with influential contacts in India: news channels, politicians, celebrities, etc., especially those from the Himachal Pradesh area.
We have a solid team of people working around the clock on this, and appreciate everyone’s help by sending all information to this team and allowing us to put it into action. Please pass all that seems important to the contact address provided at the bottom of this message.
Please join us in helping to raise awareness of Justin’s situation. Share this post. Create positive videos about your experience with Justin: tell a story, post it, share it on all social outlets and use the hashtags #JustinAlexanderShetler and #LostInParvati. Our goal is to raise the awareness of this issue, which will help put attention on finding Justin. If you are so inclined, please also reach out to Sushma Swaraj on Twitter. She is the External Affairs Minister and is very active on social media.
In closing, we know how many people around the world love Justin and want to see him brought home safely. We ask that you help us in our efforts by spreading the word far and wide, and we ask for you to focus on collaborating with what is already in motion. Acting as one team is what Justin would want from his friends and family, and we are so moved by what all of you have done so far to help him.
Any unused funds will be spent to ensure nothing like this happens when someone goes missing again. We are making it our mission--no matter the outcome--to ensure meaningful and lasting change comes out of this ordeal.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and pray that Justin is returned to us safely.
May the Blessing Be
Please email Justin2016search@gmail.com with any information.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL POSTS
@sushmaswaraj can you help locate #JustinAlexanderShetler? He’s #LostInParvati, we want him back: goo.gl/OucNTa
Have you seen #JustinAlexanderShetler? He is #LostInParvati - disappeared in Indian Himalayas. goo.gl/OucNTa
Please help us bring #JustinAlexanderShetler home. He’s #LostInParvati, vanished in Parvati Valley in India. Info: goo.gl/OucNTa
Have any info that can help locate #JustinAlexanderShetler? He’s #LostInParvati, we want him back: goo.gl/OucNTa
Photo to use:
Posted by Linda Borini
Thank you to everyone who reached out to Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. We really appreciated your support. While we were unable to obtain access to the CM's helicopter for a 3rd time, we did send a team out on foot to do a final search before winter sets in. This team will focus on the river, and will conduct some underwater searches. The group totals 18: 2 family friends, 8 local search and rescue, 7 porters and 1 policeman. Tom McElroy is a member of this team as well. We were able to borrow a massive amount of mountaineering equipment from the Institute of Mountaineering, all on a handshake and promise to return it. This incredible loan will enable the team to do far more than it could have otherwise.
Over the past couple of days, the American Citizens Services (ACS) Chief from the US Embassy has been visiting us and the authorities in Manali and Kullu. The support we have received from our embassy has been amazing, and we are so grateful to this team for everything they have done to help us. Overall, while the investigation may not be proceeding at a pace we would all like, Justin's mother also has comfort that the local authorities are doing their job thoroughly. Lastly, it is important to note there are some details which have been given to the family, but in order to protect the investigation and potential prosecution we are unable to share those at this moment. We will provide those as soon as we are able.
We continue to receive press coverage as well, both through Vinod Kumar Menon's investigative work at mid-day, and just yesterday a team from India Express drove overnight in order to speak with us about the status of Justin's case. Vinod's latest, with some new information on Justin's case, can be found here: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/missing-american-trekker-justin-shetler-mother-return-home-alone-underwater-search-news/17728158
We ask for everyone's continued patience as we explore all of the possibilities here. We are committed to doing all we can and will update you with any new information.
Posted by Linda Borini
As we post this update, the state helicopter belonging to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is again set to take off from Kullu to deliver the police forensics team to the site where some of Justin's belongings were found Sunday before last (10/16). It has taken a tremendous length of time to secure this second use of the helicopter, and the delays we have experienced have been infuriating for the family team. A privately chartered helicopter would have been prohibitively expensive for the operation at hand; and was categorically ruled out as an option by the state.
Joining the police forensics team on today’s mission will be Tom McElroy, a close friend of Justin and his family. Tom, a long time instructor at Tom Brown's Tracker School (where Justin also attended) and adventurer in his own right, left the US on Monday and has arrived in Kullu just in time to meet the helicopter. The team will be inspecting the location where Justin's flute and a few items were found, as well as the surrounding areas. We hope more leads will be uncovered. Its possible that Justin’s mother Suzie will also join on the flight.
The porter – Anil Singh – who until recently had been accompanying a police search team up valley has now been placed under formal arrest and is being held in suspicion of foul play in the disappearance of Justin. Bravely, Justin's mother requested and was granted the opportunity to confront and question the porter yesterday. He was brought to Manali (3.5 hours drive from where he is in lockup in Manikaran) at the behest of the family. In a surreal scene that would be unheard of in the US, Suzie and a family friend with the assistance of Rohan Thakur (our new friend from Manali) were effectively able to interrogate the porter. As a direct result of the line of questioning, we have learned that he was in possession of a phone with a camera during the trek and the police have now dispatched an officer to retrieve it from the porter’s house.
Given the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the baba and his death there is a judicial probe that has been ordered; we are awaiting the post-mortem report which has not yet been released. Now more than ever the level of scrutiny being placed on the police has been raised to unprecedented levels; this also means that the porter Anil Singh will have different supervision while in prison.
It is important to note that the ground is now starting to frost over in the mornings. The season is shifting, and we are frustrated by the lack of progress anyone has been able to make in locating Justin. We are now almost 2 months away from his last sighting, and while we remain hopeful we are challenged by the lack of resources available to us or the local authorities. The local and trekking communities have been extraordinary in offering assistance, and this has been a tremendous blessing.
We hope that we can make a meaningful impact on this problem in the future, so that no other family has to experience delays because of these resource constraints. Vinod Kumar Menon has posted a follow-on article, which outlines some of the challenges we have faced. This can be found here: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/missing-american-traveller-s-kin-rue-slow-pace-of-search/17715163
We are so deeply appreciative of everyone who has contributed to this search. In our next update we will provide a breakdown of how the money we have raised has been spent to date, and where we go from here with funding.
Lastly, we have recovered the motorcycle Justin has ridden through India. We are in the process of cleaning it up, and thought you all might appreciate seeing it again.
Please continue to send your prayers and positive thoughts to Justin, his family and the search. We are doing everything in our power to find him, and your help has been invaluable.
Posted by Linda Borini
There is no new news from the various search efforts yet. We know it is so challenging to wait, and we really appreciate everyone's patience and focus.
As of yesterday, we did receive all available information from Justin's phone, and unfortunately this did not provide any new leads.
We know the news about the baba's death is very upsetting and raises many questions. Again, we do not have any further information we can share at this time, but we are working hard with the US Embassy and the authorities to gather as much information as we can.
Some of you may have seen a news article posted today in Mid-Day, a paper based out of Mumbai. Justin's family and the search team has worked with Vinod Kumar Menon, an award winning Indian investigative journalist on this and we wanted to share the article with you.
Vinod is asking all the right questions, many of which others have shied away from.
Again, we can't thank you all enough. This community has been an incredible demonstration of the love Justin put into the world. We trust that wherever he is he can feel the love being sent to him.
I spoke with an Apple employee, and this is what he said: “if he has Find My iPhone enabled, there would be a record on servers of the last known location of his phone getting access to that information requires contacting legal - and will probably require something signed by a judge”
If possible I would like to help with analyzing the drone imagery to try to find Justin if a copy can be sent to me somehow in Australia. This is a task I do as part of my job and thought an extra pair of eyes couldn't hurt, I pull out the natural landscape colors and scan through the rest. I am on Facebook as one of Justin's friends but was not sure who best to contact as I wanted to give his family the space they asked for, but you can contact me through there .
I have a friend from Nepal, and this is what he said: I read the story in GoFundMe page. Justin's Bike in the background has a Nepalese Number Plate. The plate in 2nd pic (Ba 65 Pa 275) is issued from Bagmati District(Kathmandu) in Nepal. Any chance he may be in Nepal not in India. Nepalese bikes are not allowed in India...
I am so sorry to hear this story. I live in Kasol the last 12 years for 4 months a year. I will be back there shortly. I will do as much investigation as I can. However, I am so sorry to say but I believe he must have fell. These trails are poorly graded and the trail is not clear so it is easy to go off the trail and slip on a slab of steep rock, I know because it happened to me on the way to Khir Ganga one time. Sometimes there are a lot of leaves on the trail going to Khir Ganga making it very slippery. One must be very conscious of their footing and the path they're taking. Many backpackers smoke a lot while hiking so it's easy to fall. Sadly there is even a plack for an Israeli boy about Justin's age on the trail to Khir Ganga who died. I will talk to one of the local men I know who I'm sure was on the search and rescue team when I get up to Parvati.
I emailed the info email as I have some friends in India well connected to the DSP and asked which district police department is working on the case. They would contact info for Justin's mom there. Trying to help, the more they know we have contacts in India the better. Waiting for reply.
I've been praying for Justin and checking back here daily for updates. Have there been anymore as of 11/1/16?
What did the Baba say about where he is now ?
Justin had NO APPLE.