|by Maria Flora, The Journal Review • April 24, 2004|
Anthony Hyatt Lobdell, 21, Indianapolis, is enrolled in a study abroad program at Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina, about 620 miles west of Buenos Aires.
He left his host family’s home April 1 for a vacation, telling them he’d return by April 11. They reported him missing to the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires on April 16 after he failed to return for classes.
Argentine federal police are coordinating the search. The U.S. Embassy issued a press release and Lobdell’s photo to 250 Argentine media outlets Wednesday appealing for help finding the man. On Thursday, an American couple told Embassy officials they talked with Lobdell April 9 in a mountain park near the town of Bariloche in the Patagonia region of the Andes Mountains.
The innkeeper at a backpackers youth hotel where Lobdell checked in April 6 also contacted police, said Jim Amidon, Wabash director of public affairs. The innkeeper told an Argentine newspaper he thought Lobdell left without paying. Police found Lobdell’s backpack and passport at the inn, Embassy officials confirmed.
Also on Thursday, police questioned Randall James Clausen, an American writer living in Bariloche, who met Lobdell on a bus trip. Lobdell and Clausen rode from Chile to Bariloche and went out together April 6 for drinks and music, the Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported Friday. Lobdell invited Clausen to hike to Refugio Frey on Catedral Mountain, outside Bariloche, April 9, but Clausen could not go, an Embassy official said.
The American couple said they met Lobdell at a mountain park April 9. He was on his way down the mountain about 4:30 p.m. to catch a bus for a 30-minute ride back to Bariloche, said an Embassy official who did not want to be identified.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in Argentina is working with local officials. Bloodhounds were brought in Friday for an extensive search at Refugio Frey and on the mountain, officials said.
Searchers found a blue coat in one of the many lakes around Bariloche Friday. "They think it could probably be Anthony’s, but they are not sure of this," Daniel Lorenzo, with the Argentine national news service Telam, said.
Lobdell’s parents Lawrence and Nancy Lobdell will be asked today to identify the coat, Lorenzo said. They arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday and are traveling with Jose Mostafa, resident director of the exchange program in Mendoza. Mostafa is their guide and translator.
"We continue to hold out hope that Tony is safe," Amidon said.
Lobdell last used his Wabash College e-mail account April 7. He withdrew $36 from his Argentinean bank account through an automatic teller machine in Bariloche on April 9, his host mother told La Nacion.
Lobdell is a Franklin Central High School graduate. He is a Wabash College junior majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish. Lobdell’s friends know him as Tony. He is a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
Young Americans and Europeans visit southern Argentina in droves because it’s a beautiful area and the dollar is strong, the State Department official said. The area where Lobdell was last seen has rugged terrain.
Information about the investigation is available at the Mendoza newspaper, La Nacion, Web site: www.lanacion.com.ar
Content © 2004 The Journal Review