Body of missing hiker found
By Diana Leone
Advertiser Staff Writer
LĪHU'E, Kaua'i — The body of a 26-year-old Utah man who had been missing for nearly a week was found yesterday just a few hundred yards from where he was last seen in Wailua Valley.
Ryan Soper of Orem, Utah, had been on a guided kayaking and hiking tour with his wife and in-laws last Thursday afternoon when he became separated from the group, said Pete Fischer, owner of Kayak Wailua, the outfitter that provided the tour.
From Friday until yesterday, personnel from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Kaua'i Police Department, local volunteers with dogs, and finally Honolulu police dogs and personnel searched for Soper.
Kaua'i resident John Bohling yesterday found Soper's body. Bohling said it appeared he had been dead for some time. He notified authorities, who removed the body yesterday afternoon.
The body was tentatively identified as that of Soper, Kaua'i County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.
Bohling said he and two acquaintances from Alaska spotted Soper's body at the base of a second waterfall that is uphill from the more frequently visited Secret Falls. The latter is a 1.5-mile hike from the Wailua River and a destination for many tour groups.
Bohling said the location of the body seemed consistent with Soper perhaps having climbed to the top of the second falls, then losing his footing on the way down, perhaps as night fell.
While on the kayak/hiking tour April 15, Soper had climbed a vine near his in-laws and fallen on his mother-in-law, breaking her foot in two places, the guide leading the tour told Fischer.
As others tended to the injured woman, the 5-foot-10 inch, 240-pound Soper reportedly ran up the trail.
Amie Soper earlier told the Salt Lake Tribune that her husband may have suffered a concussion in the fall.
After the mother-in-law was taken to the hospital and treated, Fischer's guides went back up the river in motor boats and called his name, but got no response, Fischer said.
Daily searches for Soper began the next morning.
"When somebody just runs off you really don't have any control of that," Fischer said, especially since everyone was focused on helping the injured woman.
Fischer called the incident "quite bizarre ." He said the area where Soper was found had been searched previously.
"Our hearts go out to the family," who had been at the river each day of the search, Fischer said. "They've been really sick over this. Our condolences go out to them."