KAILUA-KONA, Hawai‘i — Family and friends of a woman who was reported missing on Nov. 20, 2023, are still seeking answers surrounding her disappearance.
Kunzang Yuthok, 65, was last seen walking on the runway at Old Kona Airport Park on the morning of Nov. 20 while her husband was swimming at Kona Aquatics Center.
Yuthok was born in Darjeeling, India, as a refugee from Tibet after her parents fled when the Chinese invaded. As a young teenager, she moved to the Seattle area and attended high school in Tacoma, Washington.
“When we met, she was doing a lot of Tibetan human rights work,” said her husband Daniel Hodel. “I had gotten interested in the subject and we formed a human rights group in Seattle that was fairly active during the 1990s.”
He said in 1997, Yuthok was asked by the Tibetan government-in-exile to go to Paris and be the bureau chief of the Office of Tibet, along with being the representative of six countries that were covered by that office for the Dalai Lama. She lobbied with those governments in support of Tibetan human rights issues.
The couple moved to Kona in 2001 after her mission in Europe was over. She began working in real estate and later opened Pacifica Realty Management with a partner.
Hodel said about four years ago, Yuthok began displaying Parkinson’s-like symptoms, so she decided to leave the partnership and retire.
“Since then we both retired and she was working with Kaiser trying to figure out what it was, because they wouldn’t say it was Parkinson’s. We never did get to the bottom of that,” Hodel said. “It caused her to be weak, but she still walked practically every day.”
He said part of her routine included walking the runaway or walking path, and later joining him at the pool to participate in water aerobics. She had stopped the water exercise a couple of weeks before her disappearance because she was finding it a little difficult to keep up.
“We would just park right there at the swimming pool. I would go for a swim and she would go for her walk,” he recalled.
“There were a lot of people who were regular walkers down there in the morning that even if they didn’t know her by name, they would exchange hellos as they passed. One of those people was the last person that saw her that morning. She was on the runway right outside of the entrance to the walking path.”
Hodel said there have not been any further leads in the case. The police, fire and U.S. Coast Guard searched the water and coastline, but were unable to locate Yuthok. However, some personal items were found on the beach and in the water.
Her shoes were found 80 feet apart in the middle of the beach across from the walking path the afternoon of her disappearance.
The next afternoon, at the end of the beach in the tide pools, more belongings were found.
“In the tide pool were found three things that most certainly could not float together in the same pool 30 hours after she disappeared, which in my mind is really strange,” Hodel said. “Why weren’t they found sooner and how did they all end up together?’
The items found were a key fob, a credit card and her glasses.
“The police and Coast Guard are leaning very strongly that she drowned. It was a big surf day and if you got close to the water, and you weren’t really a swimmer, which she wasn’t, anything could have happened especially in a weakened state,” he said. “I remain uncertain about what happened.”
Hodel described his wife as very bright and very sharp.
“Starting a business and making it successful was typical of her,” he recalled. “When she started the human rights group, there was no objective to do anything but work in the Seattle area on the issue because Seattle is a big trade place with China and she wanted to let people know what the story is, and if they wanted to do business with China, they were going to have to do it knowing what China is up to.”
Yuthok is described as Asian with medium complexion, 5 feet 3 inches tall, 110 pounds, with salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black top and shorts, a cap and light blue running shoes.
Police ask anyone who may have information on Yuthok’s whereabouts to call the police department’s non-emergency number at (808) 935-3311, or acting Detective Joel Furuto of the Area II Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 326-4646, ext. 281 or email email@example.com.
Police are also requesting anyone who was driving or fishing in the vicinity on Nov. 20 between 8:30 and 11 a.m., who may have dashcam footage or video footage to contact police.
Anyone who was surfing at Old Kona Airport at surf spots known as Pavilions, Middles, Randoms, and/or Superbowl’s during the same time period on Nov. 20 is also asked to contact Furuto.
Source: The Garden Island