On Oct. 19, Asian-American SoCal resident Nancy Ng, 29, went kayaking on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. The excursion was part of a yoga retreat Ng was on, and included at least nine other participants, who rented kayaks from a local business and set out. It was the last time anyone saw Ng. Now, four weeks since her disappearance, and amid desperate pleas from her family for help, TikTok’s true crime community are amplifying the story to aid in the search for Ng.
“My dad, he, and this sounds terrible, he keeps his phone next to him at night like he’s hoping for a ransom call, something that will prove that Nancy might still be alive,” Nancy’s sister Nicky Ng told ABC News.
Many on TikTok have compared the Ng family’s search to the story of Shanquella Robinson, a North Carolina woman who died under mysterious circumstances while on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Authorities and Robinson’s mother noted that the people on the trip all had conflicting stories, but while the case reached national attention — even getting a comment from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — no suspect has ever been named. While TikTok’s true crime community has been criticized in the past for its hyper-focus on missing white women and spreading wild conspiracy theories accusing unattached parties of murder, Ng’s case has been given a much different by its mainstream creators. Videos about Ng have reached over 18.2 million views on TikTok alone, with a majority simply sharing verified information from Ng’s family and encouraging other users to spread news clips widely. Ng’s sister even gave a direct interview with content creator Stephanie Soo.
‘I need us to all care, the same way we care about Gabby [Petito],” said one TikTok creator, referring to the murder case that became a staple of true-crime TikTok during summer 2021. “I just hope the social media pressure will cause at least one of the witnesses to ‘break’ and spill the truth. The family deserves to know,” reads another comment.
But the attempt to keep the narrative confined to only confirmed sources hasn’t been completely successful. Unsubstantiated conspiracy theories — like that Ng’s death was coordinated hate crime, or a cult-based sacrifice by the yoga retreat — have still managed to spread in subreddits and on smaller, less mainstream crime accounts.
Part of that could simply be because of the lack of information. While Guatemalan authorities believe Ng drowned, much of the interest in her case stems from conflicting information about the last time she was seen. Lee and Elaine Beal, the owners of the rental business Kayak Guatemala, told ABC that eight members of Ng’s group returned together, but they could see Ng’s kayak and another woman’s paddling in the distance. They lost sight of them, and a distress signal was called in. The woman returned with the two kayaks, but without Ng.
“I witnessed the survivor being ushered up the steps with the yoga instructor,” Elaine told ABC News. “She was clearly distressed, and they didn’t say a word to us.” But Lee added that the group “clammed up” and left the country the next morning without paying. Ng’s family has spent the past four weeks asking members of the yoga retreat including Christina Blazek, the woman last seen with Ng, for information, but claimed no one responded. On Wednesday, Blazek spoke out for the first time through her attorney G. Christopher Gardner, who said Blazek was cooperative with law enforcement and didn’t respond to the Ng family because of trauma and threats. The Ng family has denied that they threatened her, but did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
“To say my client hasn’t done all she can is not true,” Garder, who did not respond to Rolling Stone, said in a statement to ABC News. “She was told she needed to talk to the police, and she went and gave a full statement to Guatemalan police. They told her there was nothing that could be done. Apparently, that lake is known for having people drown on it.”
Ng’s family has raised over $90,000 on their official GoFundMe to help in the search, a number they credit to the online determination to keep Ng’s case from going cold, including videos from Asian content creators. Rescue operators have conducted several extensive ground and water searches of the lake, but have not made any progress. And they’re still hopeful that Blazek or any additional members of the yoga retreat to offer authorities help and information.
“We’re not blaming anybody or accusing anybody of anything,” Nicky told ABC News. “All we want is answers, and we want to bring Nancy home.”