Philip Kreycik went missing after a run in the Pleasanton Hills on July 10, 2021. Credit: Niffer Nan

The family of Philip Kreycik, the missing Berkeley runner who was found in the East Bay hills Tuesday, gathered in Pleasanton to remember Kreycik on Thursday morning, as law enforcement await final confirmation of his death.

Kreycik went missing following a planned hike in the Pleasanton hills on July 10. An exhaustive search involving dozens of law enforcement agencies and thousands of community members culminated in a volunteer finding a man’s body in the East Bay Regional Park’s land Tuesday.

The Alameda County coroner’s office had not identified the man as of Thursday afternoon, but Pleasanton police Lt. Erik Silacci said the agency has “high confidence” it is Kreycik due to personal items found with him, as well as family confirmation. 

Jen Yao, Kreycik’s wife, stood in front of the news media at the Pleasanton library Thursday morning alongside his parents, Keith and Marcia Kreycik. They spoke about the family’s children, their hope and gratitude during the search, and the gutting moment when they learned he had been found.

“Even when we think we have everything under control, even when we think we’re strong and capable, accidents can happen that can really derail us from the course we set ourselves on, from the life we so carefully planned, so preciously planned,” Yao said.

Kreycik was an experienced trail runner and athlete who was delighted with nature and the outdoors, cared deeply for his children and family and approached life with joy, his family said. Friends of the family have created a donation page with a goal of $250,000 to support them in the weeks to come.

The following is a transcript of Jen Yao’s comments at a news conference on Thursday morning in Pleasanton.

Even when we think we have everything under control, even when we think we’re strong and capable, accidents can happen that can really derail us from the course we set ourselves on, from the life we so carefully planned, so preciously planned.

Life is truly fragile and delicate, and the past three, almost four weeks, showed me that crystal clear. Treat it with joy, and kindness and take on the hardships and heartbreaks with courage and bravery.

I think we can’t possibly ever truly express our appreciation and gratitude enough to really, truly acknowledge what you have all done for us. Our families, friends, volunteers, people who know Philip, people who don’t know Philip, the communities from multiple communities and citizens of Pleasanton.

There are no words to really express our gratitude. I have told several people that if I can, I would really like to meet every single person who helped us, thought of us, who brought the coolers, filled it with ice every day, the food for the volunteers. I would really like to meet every single one of them, of you, on an individual level. I want to learn your names and what you do for a living, if you had to take off work, to come and help us. 

There are really no words to truly express how difficult this is, and just how much we appreciate everybody’s help. Hug your families, because you really don’t know what’s going to happen in the next moment. Life is strong but it’s very, very, very, fragile and delicate, so please take care of each other.

Philip Kreycik, his wife Jen Yao, and their two children. Courtesy: Sandy Schneider

Police are currently awaiting results from the Alameda County coroner’s office regarding identification this week, and the autopsy, which could take much longer. In the meantime, they are accessing information from Kreycik’s watch, which was found on his person and may contain GPS data.

Law enforcement said numerous times over the last month that Kreycik’s search was “unprecedented,” and that it was highly unusual for someone to be missing so long in the park. The community member and friend who ultimately found Kreycik located him about a quarter-mile off his intended route in an area of game land that’s not used for public trails.

“There was a lot of area searched, but just not this particular area,” Silacci said, explaining that thick brush obscured much of the area, and the volunteer had to be very close to find him. Kreycik went missing on a day when temperatures hit 100 degrees in Pleasanton, in an area with rugged and rocky terrain.

Family members heard the news shortly after he was found, and confirmed information about his identity and belongings with law enforcement.

“It was brutal. I think even when you’re hoping for a miracle, you don’t realize that it’s that last bit of hope that’s been carrying you on,” Yao said Thursday. “It was brutal when that was taken away.”

The Kreyciks and Yao bolstered one another for support Thursday and spoke with clarity and strength about Kreycik’s impact on their lives.

“Phil told me that I’m the toughest person he knows when it counts the most, and if there was a time that counts the most, that would be now,” Yao said, keeping her head held high.

Foothill High School in Pleasanton became the headquarters for extensive community-led search efforts to find Kreycik. Volunteers have now cleared out of the area. Credit: Tim Wong

They also repeatedly expressed their gratitude for the extensive community-led effort that located him, organized by local residents and people throughout the country on social media.

“We just have deep admiration for the work that all of these people have done,” Keith said. “It’s really given us the strength, given me the strength to keep on going, and to try make the world the kind of place that I know Philip wanted it to be.”

He said the family has grappled this week with the pain of the present alongside a rich, joyous past with Kreycik, but they’re doing their best to move forward together.

“We know that he had lofty goals for this environment and it really is something that we want to do. As we go forward, we’re living in the way Philip wanted us to live … we are respecting the things that he respected, and we’re raising those kids as best we possibly can to follow in his footsteps.”

On the social media group for Kreycik’s search, people who knew him personally and other trail runners who considered him “family” spoke in tandem about his legacy. Kreycik attended Harvard and MIT, and worked on environmental sustainability and energy projects, most recently for PG&E.

His mother said he cared for the planet, consumed what he needed and would often stop on walks with Yao to pick up bruised fruit from the ground and exclaim, “It’s good!” She reflected briefly on what may have happened for Kreycik to lose his path that day, but ultimately focused on her hopes for his final moments.

“I like to imagine him setting off on this final hike with joy, embracing the outdoors, running free as the wind with those strong legs of his, looking forward to joining his family with new energy. “

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...