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American college student who went missing in France reunited with family and heading back to U.S., officials say

Ken DeLand Jr. "is currently in Lyon with his mother and they should be taking a plane together for the United-States today during the day,” Grenoble's public prosecutor said Saturday.

An American college student who was reported missing during a study abroad trip in France has been reunited with his mother and is heading back to the United States, authorities said Saturday.

Ken DeLand Jr. "is currently in Lyon with his mother and they should be taking a plane together for the United-States today during the day,” Grenoble public prosecutor Eric Vaillant said in a statement early Saturday.

DeLand had gone missing last month but made contact with his parents on Friday morning from Spain. His family said on a website dedicated to finding him that his mother, Carol Laws, was in France “preparing to see Kenny and hopefully bring him home for Christmas.”

DeLand was reported missing last month while studying at the University Grenoble Alpes in France, his family said in an older post on the website. They said at the time that they had last heard from DeLand on Nov. 27 via WhatsApp, a text message and calling app.

Ken DeLand Jr.
Ken DeLand Jr. Ken DeLand via Facebook

The 22-year-old went to class on Nov. 28, his family had said. The following day, he left his host family’s home and boarded a train for Valence, France, packing a small bag that held his cellphone, food, wallet and a change of clothes.

The family said on the website that DeLand’s phone pinged on Nov. 30 at the Valence train station, and days later, on Dec. 3, he made a purchase at a sporting goods store.

DeLand is a student at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York. His study program was supposed to end Saturday, and his visa expires in January.

On the website, the family thanked news outlets Friday, saying: “Without the media’s help, Kenny would not have seen himself in the news.”

They previously said on the website that DeLand “struggled to fit in and make friends” when he first arrived in France, but eventually “made great connections.”

“It is vital to note Ken has friends in France, and they are the ones who initially reported him missing to the school and continue to show support and check in for updates on Ken,” they said.

The disappearance was investigated by the Grenoble public prosecutor’s office, which had previously said that DeLand told people he was “insufficiently prepared” for the trip. The office said it appeared that he had voluntarily left Grenoble.

Details surrounding his disappearance are not clear.