Bird-watching US tourist disappears visiting Mayan ruins in Guatemala
Hunt for bird-watching American tourist, 66, who mysteriously vanished from Mayan jungle ruins in Guatemala
- Raymond Ashcroft, 66, was visiting Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala on February 3 when he failed to return to his hotel in Tikal
- His wife of 40 years, Van Phung – who met Ashcroft when they both worked as pharmacists at a Houston, Texas hospital – raised the alarm
- She says he suffers from mental issues such as problems with memory and mania, noting he is not capable of being left quietly without mental stimulation
Guatemalan police are searching for a American tourist who vanished after visiting Mayan ruins deep in the jungle.
Raymond Ashcroft, 66, from Texas, was last seen seven weeks ago, on February 3 before he disappeared.
His wife of 40 years, Van Phung – who met Ashcroft when they both worked as pharmacists at a Houston cancer hospital – said he suffered from memory problems and manic, meaning he was not able to be left alone for stretches of time.
She said he also had problems walking, which now makes her suspect that he was taken by someone, because he was not able to go far alone.
The couple had been on a wildlife tour with a group of other travelers, visiting the famed Tikal ruins – a UNESCO World Heritage site inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D.
Raymond Ashcroft – who Guatemalan authorities named as Ashcraft – was last seen on February 3
Search and rescue teams are pictured looking for the missing American
They were traveling with Canadian tour company Eagle-Eye, local media reported. Eagle-Eye Tours, which offers wildlife excursions worldwide, currently offers on their website an 11-day Belize and Tikal trip for $4,075 per person.
Eagle-Eye Tours is yet to confirm he was one of their tourists, and has not responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Phung told Prensa Libre, a Guatemalan newspaper, that they set out on the morning of February 3 on foot to try and spot birds.
‘Around midday our group was walking back towards the Jungle Lodge for lunch when we saw a crocodile on the banks of a pond in front of the entrance to the hotel,’ she told the paper.
‘We went closer to the pond to take photos of the crocodile and a tiger heron.’
Ashcroft left the group and said he was returning to their hotel – Phung assumed he wanted to either use the bathroom or simply wait for lunch.
Phung said he had a bad left knee and moved slowly: she said he could not walk more than 500 steps without needing to sit down.
‘He walks slowly, so it’s strange that no one saw him in the less than 30 minutes between the last time we saw him, by the pond which is in front of the hotel entrance.’
She returned to the hotel shortly after him, but could not find him.
Ashcroft and his wife were visiting the Mayan ruins at Tikal, as part of a birdwatching vacation
The couple were traveling with Canadian company Eagle-Eye Tours, local media said
The Mayan ruins in Tikal are one of the most popular tourist sites in Guatemala
‘When I got to the hotel lobby I didn’t see him waiting for me so I went to check on the bathrooms behind the restaurant,’ she said.
‘I didn’t find him so I went to our room, room 31, to see if he was there – but he wasn’t.’
At 12:30pm she told two guides that he was missing.
The hotel guards and two members of the birdwatching tour set off to look for him – one of them using a motorbike.
‘When they didn’t find him outside the park itself, five men entered the park to look for him – they split up, so each one took a different path,’ Phung told the newspaper.
At 5pm the United States embassy was informed and they told Guatemala’s Ministry of the Interior.
Local officials arrived soon after and began interviewing her, and others at the hotel.
A search and rescue team was dispatched, and by 6:30am on February 4 there were 97 people looking for him, Phung said.
A group of rescuers is seen preparing to begin the search for Ashcroft
A volunteer rescuer with the Guatemalan team is pictured looking for Ashcroft
Rescuers are seen preparing the search dogs
Ashcroft has now been missing for seven weeks
Teams in Guatemala combed the area searching for Ashcroft
Guatemalan authorities have notified Interpol, which facilitates law enforcement cooperation across borders.
Interpol has issued a yellow notice, which is designed to help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves.
In 2022, a German tourist Stephan Baitz, 53, was found dead at the park.
His body was recovered two days after he went missing, and authorities said he died of heat stroke.
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