TODAY   |  January 25, 2013

American tourists robbed, beaten in Peru

Three American travelers from Wyoming were on vacation in Peru, hiking near Machu Picchu, when they were confronted by villagers who beat them with rocks and ransacked their vehicle, causing them to need over 100 stitches between them. NBC’s Contessa Brewer reports.

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>>> the woods.

>>> three american travelers in peru , but they say the vacation turned into a frightening ordeal. contessa brewer travelled to peru to cover this story.

>> good to see you. a man, his wife, sister from wyoming planned this trip to peru to explore the beautiful countryside. they never expected to be beaten, whipped and held against their will. now they're safe and they're telling their story.

>> we begged for mercy. we thought we were going to die for 11 hours.

>> reporter: december 29th , 30th birthday trip to peru began with a mountain hike with her brother, jeb and his wife, megan, near macha ppechu.

>> the first initial two people, men that came down, we asked, do you think this would be okay if we camped here? and they said, yes, it should be fine.

>> when did you know there was going to be a problem?

>> they started blowing whistles, calling people on the cell phone.

>> reporter: they say suddenly they were surrounded, demanding their papers. but as experienced travelers, they knew not to give their passports to nonofficials. they tried to drive off but the villagers blocked the road.

>> they were piling up rocks in the middle of the road .

>> reporter: jed tried to steer around the rocks but the truck tipped.

>> that's when the big rocks started coming in.

>> i got hit really hard in the back of my head and so i was bleeding and then -- at that point, you know, we're yelling at each other, we have to run away. these people are trying to kill us.

>> then we were just surrounded. and there was no more running. they're hitting us with rocks very hard.

>> in our head.

>> i mean, in our head. they're beating us with sticks.

>> we're all covered in blood, like all of our clothing is covered in blood. it's just dripping off of us.

>> now night, they say they were marched to a nearby village, where men, women and children began shouting and beating them.

>> people coming out, just whipping us out of the blue.

>> jed, your sister was bleeding, your wife was bleeding. did you think their lives were in danger?

>> i was just like, i'm going to see my sister and my wife get probably beaten to death with stones right in front of me right now.

>> an even more terrifying sight.

>> at that point you're like, there's three guns, there's three of us. this is it. we're going to die.

>> what did you say to each other in that period of time?

>> i love you.

>> we just said i love you.

>> i love you, i love you, i love you.

>> a shot was fired but above the captain's head. then they sensed a change in their captor's attitude.

>> they basically said we'll let you go if you sign this document that says you were drinking and crashed the car into the ditch and that's why your car is so damaged and that's why you have these injuries.

>> they signed the document and were finally taken back to their ransacked camp. police took them later for medical treatment , more than 100 stitches among them. we spoke to u.s. officials in peru who expressed sprois over the attack.

>> we have not seen anything like this in peru before. this appears to be a very isolated incident.

>> peruvian tourism officials met with them to apologize.

>> we are sorry and surprise, because this is not common at all here in peru . we hope this won't happen again.

>> nbc spoke with the local mayor, who oversees that village in peru where that attack took place and he insists it was just a misunderstanding, that the villagers speak the indigenous language and thought that the american tourists were delinquents but he can't explain the violence of that attack. the district attorney now has the case. looks like, savannah, charges are unlikely here. they could not distinguish faces here they weren't able to identify individual attackers.

>> what a terrifying tale, though. contessa, thank you. appreciate it.