Hope wanes in search for US student in India

AP News
Posted: Sep 29, 2011 7:31 AM
Hope wanes in search for US student in India

Police and rescue workers searched Thursday for an American student who fell into a river while trekking in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, though the U.S. program he was on said he was presumed dead.

Thomas Plotkin has been missing since Sept. 22, when fellow hikers said he twisted his ankle and tumbled from a 490-foot (150-meter) ridge into the Gori River, known for its violent rapids and strong whirlpools.

The 20-year-old had been in a group trekking the 37-mile (60-kilometer) Johar trail, which meanders along the Gori in the Himalayan foothills. They were on a semester program in India with the Wyoming-based National Outdoor Leadership Program.

"The search operation will continue for a few more days, but with every passing day, hopes to find him alive are diminishing," local magistrate J.S. Rathore said Thursday.

The outdoor leadership program said in a statement that it "regretfully has to presume Thomas has not survived."

The rescue team found Plotkin's tattered bag entangled in a tree branch Tuesday about a mile (2 kilometers) downstream from where he fell. Other belongings, including a rain coat and a head lamp, were strewn about.

Rathore said rescuers had traced the trail three times and "looked into every cave and crevice where a person can find shelter."

Plotkin, from Minnetonka, Minnesota, studied at the University of Iowa, which has no links with the outdoor leadership course.