Two Va. hikers, one a Richmond vet, missing since Friday

MONTANA (WTVR)-Park Rangers in Glacier National Park in Montana are searching for two hikers from Virginia who have been missing since Friday.

The National Park Service says 32-year old Jason Hiser, who lives in Richmond, and 32-year old Neal Peckens, from Reston, VA, were reported missing by their families when they missed their flight back east on Friday.

Rangers found the vehicle they were driving on Friday and initiated a search soon there after.  As of now, the whereabouts of the men is unknown.

“He loves the outside, loves the outdoors, loves to bike he loves to run.  He’s very physically fit,” der Au Michaels said who has worked with Jason Hiser at Broad Street Veterinary Hospital since 2006.

Dr. Hiser works as a veterinarian at Broad Street Veterinary Hospital in Richmond, and lives in town with his wife.

 “He’s just a gentle giant, he’s a wonderful person, and we will keep our prayers alive,” Heather Garnett, who takes her pets to Dr. Hiser, said.

Dr. Hiser played football in college before he became a vet.  He met his hiking partner, Peckens, when they were in vet school together.

Family members say both Dr. Hiser and Peckens are experienced hikers.  CBS 6 spoke with members of Hiser’s family, who say he is a loving, caring man.

Friends of Dr. Hiser’s across Richmond are now following the search.

“They did say that this morning the weather wasn’t good, but this afternoon it started to break and they did have helicopters up in the air,” says Michaels after speaking with Dr. Hiser’s family Sunday.

Park Rangers from other states have been called into Montana to help search for Hiser and Peckens.

Park officials said that the weather has been quite challenging for the search operation. Search personnel have encountered up to 18 inches of snow on trails, snow drifts, limited visibility and very windy conditions.

Aerial operations were limited on Sunday, due to low visibility and extremely windy conditions. Park officials said that a recently used fire ring and tracks were identified in the area of the search on Sunday. 

They said the evidence may be related to the missing hikers, and that it is probable that due to snowy weather conditions and snow covered trails, the two men may have gone off trail.

Still, in Richmond, optimism is the guiding force for those who know Dr. Hiser.

“Our prayers are with not only the family but also everyone that’s in Glacier looking for him,” says Jina Maio, who knows the Hiser family.

“He’s coming home and he’ll be home soon,” says Michaels.

Dr. Hiser’s family says his wife will remain in Richmond for now.  

Crews have been searching for the past two days, and will continue looking for Hiser and Peckens. Glacier National Park has been posting updates to their Facebook page. 

This is a developing story.  Stay with CBS 6 for any updates as soon as information becomes available.

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