Massive search party organised in US to look for Irish backpacker missing since April

A fund has been launched to help the parents of an Irish man, who went missing almost eight months ago on a US hiking route, mount a massive search for him.

Missing hiker David O'Sullivan from Midleton, Co Cork.

David O’Sullivan’s parents Con and Carmel are due to jet out from Cork to California today to join one of the single largest co-ordinated search efforts for their son who vanished on April 7 while hiking the epic Pacific Crest Trail on the US west coast.

Dozens of volunteers, including expert hikers and members of the Irish expat community in San Diego, will be involved in the massive operation from Saturday in an area about the size of Cork county.

The ground teams will be supported by an aircraft equipped with specialist search cameras.

Con said he and Carmel, who live on the outskirts of Midleton, want to do whatever they can to find their youngest son, whose 26th birthday was in August.

“It just has to be done. We are hoping to find him. We want to find him alive but there have been no sightings of him for eight months,” he said.

“And we have had that conversation. We are bearing up but there’s no doubt about it, we are under pressure.

“Christmas is at a standstill really. This is just our cross to bear at the moment.

“We are just hoping now to finalise this but we are not sure if we can.”

David’s parents Carmel and Con O’Sullivan.

David studied English and Philosophy in UCC. He worked in a filling station on the Cork Road in Midleton, and was inspired to take on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from southern California to Canada, after reading the book Wild last year.

He left Ireland on March 20 and set off on the hike alone from the American/ Mexican border on March 22.

“He hoped to find himself,” Con said. “We had concerns. Of course we had concerns. But he had hiked before a lot in Ireland.

“He is fit, disciplined and he’s a black-belt in karate. He’s quiet, but once you started talking to him, and found common ground, he couldn’t stop talking. He was a good steady lad.”

David had hiking gear, a very distinctive backpack, a non-smart phone, and a tablet. However, he had no international phone plan and was relying on local wifi spots to contact his family.

He reached the town of Idyllwild near Big Bear City, close to San Bernadino in California on April 5. David’s parents received an email from him on April 7 detailing his hike so far. There has been no contact or sightings of him since.

His family raised the alarm about a week later, and following contact between gardaí, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Interpol and the US authorities, a missing person alert was subsequently issued in California.

However, despite investigations which revealed no banking activity, no activity on his mobile phone from March 22, and several searches of the Pacific Crest Trail around Idyllwild involving specialist search teams, there has been no sign of or trace of David, or his distinctive rucksack.

The group of volunteer searchers who will join a massive search for David this weekend.

Murietta Police Department believe he may “may have gone off the trail to avoid heavy snow”.

Con said this weekend’s searches for David, organised by a local volunteer, Cathy Tarr, will focus in and around the area in which he was last seen.

However, he said it is extremely remote and challenging terrain with the trail a one-hour drive by jeep along dirt trails from the nearest town, and at an altitude of around 2,500m in desert-like mountains.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance.

Con, who was involved in the massive search for the body of Robert Holohan in Midleton in 2005, said his family is now grateful for all the help and support they’ve received from people in Midleton and beyond, from the gardaí, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the US police and local volunteer search teams, especially
Ms Tarr.

Now friends of the O’Sullivan’s, Padraig O’Neill and Brian Schafer, have launched a fund to help the family cover some of the costs associated with the ongoing search operations.

The donations page can be found here.

The IBAN is IE04 BOFI 9027 0963 2988 36.

David’s older brother, Niall, a trainee teacher, said every single cent will be used to help find David.

“Any extra money will be donated,” he said.

Photos of David O'Sullivan

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