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Flushing hiker remains missing in Hudson Highlands state park

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Myung Geuk Choi, a 63-year-old experienced climber, was last seen with his hiking companion in Hudson Highlands State Park in Beacon, N.Y. on Jan. 2, before a rainstorm that night, Sgt. Timothy Gordon of the State Park police said. Since then rescue workers have searched through rain, freezing rain and snow on the mountain face for Choi, a Flushing resident."The area where he was last seen, in general, (is) comprised of relatively technical walks, lots of steep areas. It can be very rocky," Gordon said. "There are areas where there are cliffs and you do have drops in relative proximity to the trail."When asked whether foul play was suspected, he said police were investigating all possible ways the man could have disappeared. Choi and a woman, both members of a New York City hiking club, took a train to Breakneck mountain the morning of Jan. 2, police said.While on the uphill trail, they met two Asian male hikers, according to police. Choi and the woman later parted ways and planned to meet at the Cold Spring train station at 1 p.m. that Sunday afternoon. When Choi did not appear at the station, the woman returned to New York and called a friend from the hiking club to recount the day's events, police said. Investigators did not release the woman hiker's name.The club leader passed the news on to Choi's daughter, who lives with him in Flushing, and she went with friends to look for her father on the mountain late that evening, police said. At midnight on Jan. 3, she called the sheriff's department to report her father missing. The search began at daybreak on Jan. 3.Breakneck Ridge is described on Gorp.com, a hiking Web site, as a somewhat craggy mountain that welcomes hikers at the lower levels with marked trails but attracts few crowds at its higher, riskier elevations.According to the site, deviation from the trial could result in a fatal fall off the mountain's south face."We have someone missing there probably six or seven (times) a year," Gordon said. "Most of them are not requiring an intensive search of this manner."Choi, according to the missing person's report released by State Park police, is an experienced hiker who has climbed Hudson Highlands State Park on several occasions and is familiar with the trails in that region.Gordon said most of the time, hikers get lost in the darkness or on unmarked trails and are found within a few hours of their disappearance. Rarely, he said, do the park police have to enlist the number of agencies that are coordinating the search for Choi.In addition to the State Park police, the Putnam County Sheriff's office, the state forest rangers, the state police and aviation units are out looking for the Flushing hiker. Helicopters as well as expert rock climbers have been employed in the search over the past two weeks.Choi is a balding Korean man who stands 5-foot-7 tall and weighs 130 pounds, according to police. He was last seen wearing beige corduroy pants, a gray goose-down jacket, a beige baseball cap, black shoes and a red and gray backpack with black straps.Choi's daughter could not be located for comment.Gordon said it was snowing Tuesday as the 35 to 40 rescue workers scaled the ridge in search of Choi. Breakneck Ridge derives its name from its incline."When you come up route 9D and you see what is called Breakneck Ridge, it is a very steep face," Gordon said.He said the search remained a "rescue mission" for Choi."We're out there looking and we are hopeful," Gordon said. "We will never stop looking. It may be scaled back and it may not be 50 or 60 people in the woods at that time, but we will continue looking."Anyone with information about Choi can contact the Putnam County Sheriff's Department's office at (845) 225-4300 or New York State Park Police at (845) 889-4100, Ext. 310.Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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