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Jan 2, 2015 4:30 PM

Missing American found dead in Mexican mountains

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) Searchers on Friday found the body of an American man who had been missing in the rugged mountains in central Mexico since going on a hike four days ago.

Carlos Mandujano, the civil defense coordinator for Morelos state, said a search team found the lifeless body of Hari Simran Singh Khalsa, 25.

He was found in one of the narrow gorges or ravines that crisscross the rugged mountains in the colonial town of Tepoztlan, not far from where he was last seen in a picture of himself that he sent by cellphone.

"He has been found, but unfortunately, dead," Mandujano said. "We don't know the cause of death yet; that will be determined by the autopsy."

Khalsa's family and friends said in a statement later that he apparently died from a fall. "He appears to have fallen while hiking and sustained a fatal injury to the head," it said.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City also confirmed the death. It said it was offering consular support to Khalsa's family and extended the U.S. government's condolences.

While helicopters and hundreds of police and rescue workers combed the craggy mountains and cliffs around Tepoztlan this week, it appears Khalsa never went very far.

The body "was in the same wooded area, but the thing is that it is very rough terrain," Mandujano said.

The search began Tuesday after Khalsa didn't return from going on a hike in Tepoztlan, about an hour south of Mexico City, with only a T-shirt, shorts, and little food and water, said his wife, Ad Purkh Kaur.

Kaur said Friday from Tepoztlan that her husband was a yoga instructor born and raised in Brooklyn. The couple have been living in Leesburg, Virginia, but were planning to move back to Brooklyn at the end of the month.

Kaur, whose legal name is Emily Smith, said she and her husband arrived in Tepoztlan for a yoga retreat Dec. 26.

Tepoztlan, a frequent weekend getaway for Mexico City residents, is known for the towering, whimsically shaped cliffs and mountain peaks that tower over the colonial town on the valley floor.

Kaur said she heard from her husband at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when he sent a picture of himself on a mountain top pointing to the site of the yoga retreat, with the message: "Looking down on you!"

She last heard from him about two hours after that, when he sent a text message.

"I accidentally summited another mountain," he wrote, Kaur said. "Looks like I'll be a little later coming back. Save me some lunch if you can."

Kaur said her husband was an experienced hiker who was just getting into backcountry hiking, though she said he didn't have much survival training as far as she knew.

"He hasn't done a lot of overnight hikes, or a lot of backcountry hikes," she said before his body was found. "He has gone on accidental overnight hikes before and had to come down the next day ... He's very adventurous and strong and smart and capable."


Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson reported this story in Mexico City and Amanda Lee Myers reported from Washington.


Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP


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