April 15 - Boston Herald: Parents of missing Lowell man fear worst

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By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 9:57 pm: Edit Post

Read the story from the Boston Herald ont he disappearance of volunteer Walter Poirer at:

Parents of missing Lowell man fear worst

Parents of missing Lowell man fear worst: Hope feds can track down Peace Corps worker in Bolivia by Dave Wedge

Sunday, April 15, 2001

In his four years at Notre Dame, Walter Poirier learned that he loved to help people.

But now, his family fears that love for community service may have led him to a tragic death deep in the foothills of Bolivia.

``This is any parent's worst nightmare,'' his mother, Sheila, said yesterday from the family's Lowell home. ``Hopefully, we'll find Walter and we'll find him alive.''

The 23-year-old college grad hasn't been heard from in two months and now his family is calling on the FBI to help solve his mysterious disappearance. Backed by a trio of Massachusetts lawmakers - U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan and U.S. Sens. John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy - the Poiriers want federal officials to step in after two months of dead ends and little information.

``We just don't know anything,'' Sheila Poirier said. ``There's a lot of possible scenarios. There could have been an accident. My husband and I feel there could have been something else . . . maybe foul play.''

Poirier, who majored in political science and minored in history, graduted from Notre Dame last May and traveled to a rural area outside La Paz in August to work on an eco-tourism project for the Peace Corps.

His father, Walter R. Poirier, said his last contact with his son was through e-mail on Jan. 29. He last spoke to him by telephone in December.

``There were times when it was impossible to speak with him,'' his father said, referring to the undeveloped region of the Zongo Valley where his son was living.

Bolivian officials overseeing his mission say they last heard from him on Feb. 22, and there were unconfirmed sightings of him in March and April. He left behind his wallet and sleeping bag, and there hasn't been any activity on his credit cards or traveler's checks.

There were mudslides triggered by torrential rains in the area around the time of his disappearance, including one that struck a bus and killed all 35 people on board.

``The people on the ground in Bolivia believe there is no foul play,'' Meehan said. ``But on behalf of the family I want to pursue that. I'm convinced there's no way he left on his own.''

The Bay State delegation has sent letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft and President Bush asking for the FBI's help.

``We've heard nothing from authorities in Bolivia,'' Walter Poirier said. ``We've been told they're investigating. I sure hope they are.''

His parents say the mystery has taken a heavy toll on the family, including his 11-year-old brother, Christopher, and 21-year-old sister, Danielle, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

A $5,000 reward has been offered and the family recently videotaped a plea for help that will be running on Bolivian TV stations. During the taping, Christopher was so emotionally overwhelmed that his parents say he couldn't speak.

``It's not an easy thing to go through,'' his father said. ``We're hoping, but it's been a long time. It's been very hard.''

The family held a vigil Wednesday in Lowell and met with Meehan on Friday. Poirier's parents say an outpouring of community support has helped them cope, while his mother says she's kept busy sending e-mails back and forth to government officials and other agencies.

``I've just been so busy that I haven't had time to dwell. And that's good, I guess,'' she said.

Pausing, she added, ``It's tough. It's just totally unbelievable and inconceivable.''

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