Wednesday 22 May 2019

Mother of Irish hiker missing in US 'living in a nightmare' as new search planned one year after mysterious disappearance

'The day that we get the phone call with the news that his body has been found will be horrendous but what we're going through now is equally horrendous'

Weekly searches are being carried out by volunteers in the US for missing Irish man, David O'Sullivan
Weekly searches are being carried out by volunteers in the US for missing Irish man, David O'Sullivan
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

ONE year after the mysterious disappearance of Irish hiker David O'Sullivan in the US, his heartbroken mother has said: "We need to know what happened."

Carmel O'Sullivan said that she doesn't believe he will be found alive but that she is living "in a nightmare" as she has no definite proof about what happened to him.

The 25-year-old left Ireland in March last year to embark on a five-month trek of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), hiking from California to the Canadian border.

David, who is from Midleton in Cork, last contacted his family on April 7 2017, when he sent an email from Idyllwild town.

He was due to meet a friend in Santa Barbara last May but never showed up.

Carmel said that search efforts have been hampered by the weather.

She told "You have to just continue, we have nothing new, searches are ongoing.

"They've had aerial searches and a lot of volunteers out, there is supposed to be a big search on April 7, weather permitting.

"They do get a snow on higher elevations, it hasn't been so bad though his year, thank God.

"When David went last year it was great when he arrived but unfortunately he did meet snow that shouldn't have been there in April when he passed Idyllwild, which he wasn't expecting.

"A lot of people would skip it and loop back, that's what he would have been planning as he doesn't have any experience with snow.

"The general feeling over there is that he did get into difficulties with snow and that something has happened, he has not been found since.

"It's a huge area to cover and with the density of the trees you can't see down into every ravine, there are boulders there that are bigger than some cars even, it's next to impossible to search every little area."

She added: "Nobody has seen anything of him, there has been no activity on his bank accounts, they can't find a signal for his phone and his GPS watch wasn't modern enough for police to pin a location for him.

"Everything went against us really, we knew he could be weeks without phone coverage so the alarm didn't ring with us for a while, although whether that would have done any good or not, we will never know."

As thousands of people undertake the gruelling PCT this year, Carmel hopes she might finally get answers about what happened to her boy.

"We've been told if there's any update they'll let us know, so I feel like I'm constantly listening out for the phone or watching Facebook for something.

"We've posted on the new PCT hikers page about David to ask people to keep an eye out for him.

"There'll be thousands going through the area this month and we're hoping one of them will even see something like an item of clothing.

"Police have told us that they're not going to do any more searches because I suppose they don't have the resources but also because in cases like this it's usually another hiker who comes across someone who is lost - it could take years or he might never be found," Carmel said.

She said that she doesn't feel David is alive and her life has been on hold while they await news.

She said: "We are hopeful that he is alive but I honestly don't know how he could be to be honest - there hasn't been any activity on his bank accounts and he hasn't been in touch with home, which is something he wouldn't do to us.

"I'd love if there was a story that he had banged his head but was safe somewhere but I can't see it myself at this stage.

"The day that we get the phone call with the news that his body has been found will be horrendous but what we're going through now is equally horrendous, we're living in this awful, awful nightmare.

"We still haven't got definite proof that he is gone, I need to know what happened and where he is.

"Life can't go on for us until we know, I couldn't dream of leaving the country - unless it was to America where the searches are ongoing- until we know, I can't go to events, I just can't even think of trying to move on until I know.

"I miss him so much, I go through so many scenarios in my head about what might have happened, I dream about him at night and think about it all.

"If a garda car is passing the door my heart stops and I wonder if that's how I'll get news, or it could be a phone call or I might even see something on Facebook, I just don't know."

She said that the Irish community in San Diego are going to carry out a search of the area this weekend and will also light a candle to mark one year on from his disappearance.

Carmel said that she's not ready to fly back to the US yet for any kind of ceremony and will spend the day with family in Cork instead.

She said: "We were asked to go over for it but I'm just not ready for it, I'm not ready to say that's it or to give up. We're going to go to mass ourselves here, it'll be a private thing and we're not going to make a big thing of it.

"We will be up all night waiting for news from the search, you can't help but hope that every search is the search when he'll be found.

"We've been through this so many times but you keep hoping things will align together and we'll have some news."

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