By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A tourist from Southern California who had been missing since Dec. 19 has been found dead.
A written Fire Department statement said the car rented by 31-year-old Yogi Yoswara of Alhambra, Calif., was spotted in Papaaloa River shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Monday. His body was found about 100 yards downriver.
Former state Rep. Jerry Chang, whom Yoswara’s family and friends had contacted to help find the missing man, said that an email from the owner of the Papaaloa cabins where Yoswara was staying prompted the river search.
“The email said that because it was raining that night, the road to the (cabin) may have been unpassable, so that gave them a clue,” Chang said Tuesday morning.
Chang said that Fire Chief Darren Rosario told him that the area had already been searched, but he told his men “to search the other side of the road, because (Yoswara) might have gotten lost.”
“I think that’s what happened, that he took the wrong road and tried to go over a stream and got washed away,” Chang said. “They went again with police and … found the vehicle without a passenger, and then later on found his body downstream.”
Yoswara was last seen between 8 and 9 p.m. the night of Dec. 19, Yoswara’s friend, The Rev. Heintje Tjahja, said in an email. The last person to see him alive was Marie Thompson, a Honolulu woman whom Yoswara befriended while on the Big Island. Before Yoswara left the hostel where Thompson was staying, he told her he was concerned about the roads, that the cabin where he was staying was off the road and that it had been raining for the entire week, Tjahja said.
Yoswara was supposed to meet Thompson the following morning at 11 a.m. to go hiking, but didn’t show up. Chang said that Thompson was very cooperative and very concerned.”
“For the family and for the preacher that’s with them, the concern was foul play, but it looked like there was absolutely no foul play,” Chang said. “They wanted to come to a closure, whether it was a good or a bad one.”
Yoswara’s sister, Irene Yoswara, and Tjahja came to the Big Island to try to find the missing man and to distribute posters with his picture. They were meeting with police detectives when the body was found.
“We have some closure,” Tjahja said Tuesday morning. “To look at it in a good way and a positive way, our main goal is to find him — find him alive, of course. But now that he is not, he is with the Lord. We have some closure.”
Tjahja said Yoswara’s body would be taken to Indonesia, where he and his family are from originally.
Chang praised the efforts of the police and fire personnel who recovered Yoswara’s body.
“They did a really good job,” he said. “It was a terrible experience for the family but it was great to see that Hawaii County’s police and fire departments did a great job on this.”
Tjahja described the family as “devastated,” adding that Yoswara “loved nature and lived his life to the fullest.”
“Things like this happen for reasons we don’t understand,” he said. “But the Bible said that God’s way is better than our way and God’s plan is better than our plan. At this time of sorrow, we are holding on to our faith, and believe he’s in a better place.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.