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Asbury student goes missing on Montana hike

Searchers in Montana’s Glacier National Park are looking for a Lexington man who is overdue from a long backcountry hike.

Yi-Jien Hwa, 27, an Asbury Theological Seminary student originally from Malaysia, was to have returned from the hike Monday. He is thought to have been hiking alone.

Hwa’s family notified park officials Tuesday night that they had not heard from him since Aug. 11, the first day of the hike, and he had not contacted them as agreed when the hike was supposed to end at Kintla Lake near the U.S.-Canada border.

Search teams with the park and U.S. Customs and Border Protection began searching Thursday morning, but poor weather prevented aerial searches.

Park spokeswoman Norma Sosa said improved weather Friday would allow two helicopters to join the search.

Hwa’s vehicle was found in the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot, about 15 miles west of St. Mary, where he was last seen. Glacier National Park has more than 700 miles of hiking trails.

Hwa has tested and written reviews of hiking equipment, such as trekking poles and a digital camera tripod, for a Web site called backpackgeartest.org.

On the site, Hwa wrote, “I backpacked a few times in high school and college, but only got ‘into it’ (OK, I’m a little obsessed) in the last few months. I’m a busy seminary student, but whenever we can, my wife and I hike in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.”

Hwa wrote that he and his wife have hiked Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, Hawaii’s Big Island and the Great Smoky Mountains.

A spokeswoman for Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore confirmed to The Jessamine Journal newspaper in Nicholasville that Hwa is a student there.

Hwa is described as being 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. He was carrying a blue backpack and trekking poles. He also might be wearing dark clothing of blue, black or green.

Park officials ask that anyone with information about Hwa to contact them at (406) 888-7801.

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