Wife, mother of missing Manitoba hiker travel to Germany to help with search

The wife and mother of a Manitoba man who went missing last week while hiking in the Alps have flown to Germany to be closer to the exhaustive search.

Massive search for Jeff Freiheit involves German police, alpine crews, rescue dogs and drones

Jeff Freiheit, 32, posted this photo to Facebook from Bad Tolz, Germany, on Aug. 2. A Facetime call with him on that date was the last time his wife, Selena Freiheit, spoke with him before he went missing. (Submitted by Selena Freiheit)

The wife and mother of a Manitoba man who went missing last week while hiking in the Alps have flown to Germany to be closer to the exhaustive search.

German police officers and search and rescue crews spent the weekend scouring a roughly five-kilometre wide ridge of rugged hiking trail located just north of the Austrian border searching for Jeff Freiheit, of Brandon, Man., according his wife.

"The alpine search and rescue in the area have had dogs out. They're using drones. They've got up to 60 different people walking the trek with GPS, tractors, helicopters, para-gliders," said Selena Freiheit.

I just want him back. I just want him to be safe.— Selena Freiheit

She and Jeff's mother, Kathy Freiheit, arrived in Germany on Sunday and are staying at a hotel in the town of Bad Tolz so they can be in direct contact with police and searchers. The town is the last place she heard from Jeff during an early morning Facetime call on Aug. 2.

The 32-year-old teacher and outdoor enthusiast was only two days into what was expected to be a 24-day expedition along Der Traumpfad, a well-known alpine trek between Munich and Venice dubbed the Dream Way, when he disappeared.

He was reportedly last seen at a grocery store in the German community of Jachenau on Aug. 3 and failed to show up at subsequent accommodations he'd booked along the trail.

"It's just like one minute you're trying to be strong and making sure you're doing everything you can… and the next it's just a complete breakdown of, 'Where's my husband? I just want him back. I just want him to be safe,'" said Selena.

A view of the Allgaeu alps near Schoellang, southern Germany, close to the Austrian border, in October 2017. (Daniel Kopatsch/EPA-EFE)

Most treacherous

According to a local news reports, searchers are focusing their efforts on a section of trail between the municipalities of Jachenau and Vorderriss. That section, where Freiheit is believed to have gone missing, is the most treacherous of the entire trail, with gullies, deep trenches and rocky overhangs, said his wife.

"It goes from mountain ridges to meadow valleys. Some of it's easy walking. Some of it's a little more difficult but… the average person with some hiking experience can do this walk efficiently," she said.

There has been no signal from her husband's cellphone, she said, and he did not have a GPS device with him. He'd been training to do the trail for months, was in good health, and was very physically fit, she said.

Selena said search teams on foot have been looking in areas where he may have fallen but may not be visible by helicopter.

Family of missing Manitoba hiker Jeff Freiheit in Germany to help with search

4 years ago
Duration 1:34
German police officers and search and rescue crews spent the weekend scouring rugged hiking trail for Jeff Freiheit

The pair has been married for two years and together for nine. They taught overseas in Kuwait and travelled to over 30 countries.

"He's been to probably 42 countries in his time as a traveller. He's done expeditions before, he went to see the silverback gorillas in Uganda. He's just not afraid of some of the adventurous things. If he puts his mind that he wants to do it then he's going to do it at some point," said Selena.

She said being in contact with police and having his mother at her side has helped her cope. She's also leading a social media campaign to spread the word and raise money for possible extra search costs.

"I just want him back," said Freiheit through tears. "To be safe and to be home."

Selena Freiheit, 29, has flown to Germany to be closer to the search for her husband who disappeared while hiking. (Submitted by Selena Freiheit)