Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Lost Frontier

Fred Frontier came to Taiwan with a job and a well-researched plan for his time on the island. Then within days of his arrival, he vanished from sight

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

According to a Hualien investigator surnamed Chang, the bag contained Frontier's camera and the return half of a round-trip train ticket scheduled to depart for Taipei from Hsincheng station near Taroko Gorge at 10:27am May 25 -- a ticket that cost about the same as one to Pingtung. The wallet contained Frontier's driver's license and credit card and US$5, but no NT dollars. His passport remains unaccounted for.

Klita contacted AIT, who contacted the NPA, who then notified Hualien police to begin searching for Frontier in the area around Tienhsiang. Notwithstanding the NPA's initial all-points bulletin, this was the first indication Hualian authorities had that Frontier might be in their area. On Aug 5, nearly two weeks after Klita found her son's belongings and more than three months after he was last seen, Hualien police began the first physical search for Fred Frontier.

But the circumstances surrounding Frontier's bag and wallet are not clear. The owners of the Tienhsiang Catholic hostel told Chang that Frontier stayed with them from May 22 to May 25. "They recalled saying goodbye to him and remembered that he was carrying a bag," he said. But when police interviewed others who had stayed in the same dormitory at the same time as Frontier, they each insisted his bag was in the room from May 22 until May 26 or 27, at least one day longer than Frontier had reportedly stayed. The bag remained unaccounted for from that time until 10 days later, when it reappeared in the dormitory room. The hostel owners took it to a neighboring police station on June 10, but police instructed them to hold onto it in case its owner came looking for it.

Then, on June 13, the hostel owners reportedly found Frontier's wallet under a pillow in the dormitory. But despite the fact that it contained his identification, they neither turned it into the police -- who would have already received the NPA's all-points bulletin -- nor attempted to contact Frontier. The owners of the hostel did not answer calls for comment.

Despite the Aug. 5 search that lasted four days, 1,400 missing posters distributed by Hess, and Klita's barrage of pleading interviews with local media, there is still no sign of Frontier. And despite the peculiarities surrounding the disappearance and reappearance of Frontier's belongings, a Hualien police request to change the status of the case from a search operation to a criminal investigation has been turned down, as there is no evidence of foul play.

Klita returned to her home in Alaska on Sept. 1, where she lives without a phone. A friend reached for this report says she is doing well and remains actively involved in the search for her son.

Anyone with information regarding Fryderyk Frontier is asked to call the NPA' s foreign affairs office at (02) 2393 0989 or (02) 2394 0238.

Search and rescue

Fred Frontier isn't the first foreigner to disappear in Taiwan's maze of mountains. In 1997, German national Urs Graber got lost in Taroko Gorge. He'd attempted to travel the Hohuan Old Trail, a path first carved by Aborigines. Much of it became what is now the central cross-island highway and several remaining stretches have fallen into disrepair. Six days after setting out alone on a trail that no longer existed, Graber emerged alive.

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