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Flushing hiker’s body found by fellow climber

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"If you're a climber, you always have your eye out for new potential," he said. "Things that are in your backyard are enticing." The icicles on a cliff were growing into what appeared to be an invigorating climb for his upcoming weekend day trip. That particular afternoon on Jan. 28 he decided to pull over on Route 9D near Cold Spring, N.Y. and investigate. "More than a couple of times hiking up the hill I almost stopped and turned around. It was slippery, I wasn't properly equipped," he said. "I really took a very circuitous route through the woods to avoid the difficulties. At one point I could see the ice climb I wanted to do. There really was no need to go further." But he did. A few more steps into the woods and Amenta literally stumbled upon the body of Flushing hiker Myung Geuk Choi, who disappeared Jan. 2 after he became separated from a hiking friend on a trail on Breakneck Ridge. Autopsy reports show that he died from a fall off a cliff. His daughter alerted authorities to his disappearance after searching the grounds where he went hiking. She could not be reached for comment on the discovery of her father's body. Choi's disappearance prompted the state park police, the Putnam County sheriff's office, state forest rangers, state police and aviation units to blanket the region in search of the 63-year-old man. But it took a recreational climber to find the corpse - completely by accident. "I noticed the nylon material sticking out of the snow and I thought that seemed out of place," Amenta said, just days after making the discovery. "It had been so cold the snow had been light and fluffy. I brushed away the snow and saw more material and I saw what had later been identified as the pants." Choi, an experienced climber who had traversed that park several times before, was last seen by his hiking companion on Breakneck Ridge in Beacon, N.Y. before a rainstorm the night of Jan. 2, Sgt. Timothy Gordon of the state park police said at the time of the man's disappearance. In the weeks following, rescue workers searched through rain, freezing rain and snow on the mountain face for Choi but never found the veteran hiker. Amenta read a newspaper article about the missing man and immediately, upon finding the body, pieced the story together. "There was no one here that I could say 'Do you see what I see?'" he said. "It was late in the day, the shadows were getting long, it was 5 degrees. I was in disbelief. Only when I got down to the police could I sense my voice quivering a little bit." When rescue crews came to remove the body, Amenta was relieved to have his suspicions confirmed. "It was pretty eerie, the whole thing was really surreal, I was very detached, once I had my suspicions that it could possibly be the missing person, I said 'Okay, let's get down to it here,'" he said. "I was in such disbelief I was worried that I somehow made a mistake. I didn't want to go and sound the alarm and have everyone find out that it was nothing." He was not allowed to get near the body after the crews arrived and said that even though days have passed since he found Choi, he still can see it all clearly. "The images are still relatively fresh in my mind," he said. "I'm sure it will haunt me for some time." Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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