Nancy Ng went missing on a Guatemala yoga retreat. Could one key witness help find her?

Authorities believe Nancy Ng drowned on a kayaking trip. Family members say that theory doesn’t add up. Amelia Neath reports

Wednesday 29 November 2023 20:24
Comments
Family devastated after California woman vanishes while on yoga retreat in Guatemala

Nancy Ng, a Californian woman, mysteriously disappeared while kayaking on  Lake Atitlán in Guatemala more than a month ago.

Ms Ng was allegedly out on the kayaking excursion with 10 other people from a yoga retreat where she was spending a break away from work.

Authorities believe that Ms Ng drowned while out on the lake. But that theory has been challenged by family members questioning why the last people to see Ms Ng allegedly haven’t cooperated with the investigation from the state.

After weeks of search teams going on very little information to recover Ms Ng, small details have been slowly unravelling - with a key witness finally speaking out.

Ms Ng still has not been found; what currently remains of her is a sinister video of the missing woman waving goodbye to the shore before joining her fellow kayakers on their trip.

Here’s everything we know so far about the disappearance of Nancy Ng:

Who is Nancy Ng?

Nancy Ng, a 29-year-old school assistant who helps students with disabilities, embarked on a yoga retreat for the second year running, but what was meant to be another peaceful escape from her daily life turned into a nightmare.

Ms Ng lives in Monterey Park in California with her family close by. She is a fitness fanatic and a law graduate from California State University.

On 14 October, Ms Ng left for Guatemala to spend some time around Lake Atitlán at a yoga retreat before planning to fly home.

What happened to her?

On 19 October, Ms Ng went missing.

Her family told ABC7 that the retreat organisers called them to say she had not been seen since a kayaking trip she took with fellow retreat participants.

She left with a group to go on a kayaking excursion as part of the retreat, only to never return.

Local authorities believe that Ms Ng drowned, but her family believes that there was something more to this story, as it allegedly took the group around 24 hours to report her missing.

After 72 hours, the naval team stopped the search for the missing woman, prompting her family back in California to hire professional boaters and ask locals to keep an eye out.

By 24 October, the family had hired an extensive team of private helicopters, boats, divers and drones in the search for the missing woman.

However, those in Ms Ng’s kayaking group had allegedly left the country and were not cooperating with the search teams, which could have provided them with crucial information to locate the missing woman.

Jared Lopez, the partner of Ms Ng’s sister Nicky, said that lack of information has seriously hindered their search teams’ efforts.

The last known video of Nancy Ng shows her waving at the camera while on her kayak

Last sightings of Nancy

Since Ms Ng’s disappearance, an eerie video has been released, capturing the moment Ms Ng paddled away in her kayak moments before she went missing.

Ms Ng gave one last glance and turned to wave to the camera before sailing off with the kayakers before she disappeared.

Reports came in to fire and rescue officials in the area, who claim they spotted Ms Ng about half a mile away from shore and that her kayak was later found empty, according to ABC News.

Local authorities and prosecutors both have said that Ms Ng likely drowned.

Key witness speaks out

After almost four weeks of waiting for witnesses to speak out about what happened to Ms Ng, her family finally heard from the last person who saw her.

Christina Blazek, a San Bernadino County public defender, was named as the last person to see Ms Ng before she went missing.

Ms Blazek and other witnesses have been barraged by followers of the case and the family, who are trying to understand why it has taken them so long to cooperate.

Yet, G. Christopher Gardner, Ms Blazek’s attorney, has denied that his client has been uncooperative and said she spoke to Guatemalan police after Ms Ng went missing.

"To say my client hasn’t done all she can is not true," the attorney told ABC News.

Mr Gardner claimed that Ms Ng and his client did not go anywhere together; instead, they bumped into each other on the lake and got chatting with each other.

While they were out on the lake, Ms Blazek said, through her attorney, that Ms Ng declared she wanted to go for a swim.

Ms Blazek allegedly tried to stop the woman from swimming “because it was rough out there and there was a good current," said Mr Gardner.

But according to the final witness, Ms Ng ignored Ms Blazek’s alleged pleas and went into the water, and by doing so, managed to push her kayak away.

Mr Gardner then claimed his client tried to retrieve Ms Ng’s kayak by keeping one leg in her vessel and another leg in the other kayak and got close to Ms Ng to push it back to her.

“And then apparently, she lost the kayak again and she turned around to go back to get the kayak again, and when she turned back around, Ms. Ng was gone,” the attorney said.

After this, Mr Gardner said Ms Blazek went to get help and a distress call was sent out.

It was previously rumoured that Ms Blazek and other witnesses fled the country almost immediately after the incident, but her attorney told ABC News that she spoke to local authorities, even trying to give them places to look, but because she was not familiar with the area, the directions were not concrete.

After giving a full statement to the police, “they told her there was nothing that could be done. Apparently, that lake is known for having people drown on it,” the attorney said.

Ng’s family accused of threats

Despite Ms Blazek allegedly complying with the police, Ms Ng’s family are still bewildered at why she has left them in the dark for weeks.

The Ng family said they attempted to reach Ms Blazek a number of times, first by sharing their number with the yoga instructor at the retreat and through other contacts, reported ABC News.

They said they sent two emails - one on 25 October and another on 31 October - but didn’t hear back from Ms Blazek on either occasion.

However, her attorney claimed that Ms Blazek was traumatised by the ordeal and needed time before she could speak.

"They [the family] tell her they understand she has been through a traumatic experience, but then they tell her she needs to come forward to assist authorities.... and they say in the same email if she doesn’t come forward they’ll make her come forward," said Mr Gardner.

The family denied to ABC News that their 31 October email contained a threat and shared their email with the outlet, which includes questions as to why Ms Blazek is silent and ends stating that if she did not cooperate, they would “pursue the matter”.

"We’re not blaming anybody or accusing anybody of anything. All we want is answers, and we want to bring Nancy home," Ms Ng’s sister said to the outlet.

Witnesses ‘didn’t say a word’

Lee and Elaine Beal, the owners of the kayak company that rented out the boats to the group, spoke out last week about what they witnessed amid the disappearance of Ms Ng.

The couple said that a group of 10 people, including Ms Ng, left with kayaks on 19 October.

“When the group returned, there were only eight among them, but we could see in the distance, a distance of about 100 yards, two single kayaks,” Mr Beal Lee said, who he believed to be Ms Ng and another woman.

“We watched them as they continued paddling until we lost sight of them,” he said.

As Ms Blazek’s attorney claimed, a distress signal was called, and Mr Beal said he saw the other woman being led ashore.

“I witnessed the survivor being ushered up the steps with the yoga instructor. She was clearly distressed, and they didn’t say a word to us,” Ms Beal told ABC.

The couple said they called the hotel the next day because the excursion was not paid for, but they were told that the group had already left.“I just don’t understand that part of leaving within eight hours, 12 hours of the accident,” Elaine said, according to ABC News.

The key element that is not adding up for the family is the lack of communication between witnesses and those who could help find their beloved family member - if it was a drowning, and it was accidental, why has it taken so long for people to speak up?

“There are people that witnessed what happened, within the group, that haven’t come forward,” Ms Ng’s sister told ABC in an earlier interview.

“We’re racking our brain as to why they wouldn’t want to come forward and help if nothing nefarious happened.”

Ms Ng’s family is still desperate for answers and is pleading with witnesses to come forward. They are hoping to hear back from Ms Blazek.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in