31 August 2015

Smokies hiker Jenny Bennett's cause of death announced; Memorial hike planned

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials received the final autopsy report from the
Sevier County Medical Examiner’s Office for Susan J. "Jenny" Bennett, of Sylva,
NC and have concluded that her cause of death was environmental hypothermia.

Bennett was reported missing and discovered off trail by rangers in the Greenbrier area
of the park above backcountry campsite 31 on June 8. The report concludes that Bennett
died of environmental hypothermia due to cold exposure from partial submersion in Porter’s
Jenny Bennett hiking in the Smokies.

However, she did have a toxic level of diphenhydramine concentration in her blood, which is considered a significant contributing factor in her death and points toward an intentional overdose, according to the Medical Examiner's Office. Diphenhydramine is used to treat common colds and allergies.

Bennett was found in a sitting position in the creek with her head resting on rocks. According to the final autopsy report, she had bruises on her right hip and elbow consistent with a fall. However, she did not have any internal or musculoskeletal trauma.

Bennett, age 62, was an avid hiker in the Smoky Mountains and maintained a blog about her trips. She had been a member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and often liked to hike off trail in the park. She was also a published author and blogger. One of her older blog sites, jennybennett.net, chronicles her off-trail hiking adventures in the Smokies, and a more recent publication was her hiking blog Endless Streams and Forests. She published a murder mystery, Murder at the Jump Off, set in the Smokies, and a contemporary fiction novel, The Twelve Streams of Leconte.

Her brother Peter Bennett, of Bozeman, Montana, who originally reported his sister missing, had this to say about her death on her Endless Streams and Forests blog:

"Jenny was planning on moving to Vermont to be closer to her sister Betsy at the beginning of June. She had packed most of her belongings and must have decided to make one last hike to her favorite area of the Smokies. She went up Porter’s Creek (setting for her first novel, Murder at the Jumpoff) and never returned. It was about a week before her landlord went to the house she was renting and realized that she had never left. He called me (Peter) and we were both very concerned. A search was launched, her car was found at the Porter’s Creek trailhead, and her body was found the next morning."

He continued, "Details of what actually happened to Jenny are unclear. The Park Service launched an investigation after her body was found, but they still don’t know everything. It is likely that we will never really know what happened. We do know that Jenny died in her favorite place in the world, the beautiful Smoky Mountains."

Her obituary in the Knoxville News-Sentinel gave a moving glimpse into her life.

"Jenny has always had an adventurous spirit and hitchhiked across Europe when she was 18. She went to college at New College in Sarasota, Florida, where she received a Bachelors degree in philosophy. She was also very interested in writing and editing, and earned a Masters degree in creative writing a few years later. In 1980 Jenny married Chris Hebb. They moved to Knoxville, where Chris went to school at the University of Tennessee. While living in Knoxville, Jenny was employed as a writer for a journal about the coal market. It was during this period that she began hiking in the Smoky Mountains and joined the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. A few years later Jenny divorced Chris and she moved north to Gloucester Massachusetts."

"She spent many years exploring the White Mountains in New England with her dear friend, Bob Parlee. Her accomplishments included summiting all of the highest mountains of New England in summer and winter. Jenny traveled to many locations all around the world. She frequently summited the highest point wherever she traveled. In 2009, Jenny returned to the Smoky Mountains and lived in North Carolina. Her many off trail adventures in the Smokies are well known to her family, friends, and members of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club."

Memorial Hike planned Sept. 13 by Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club has announced a memorial hike for Jenny on Sept. 13, 2015, on the Porters Creek Trail, with a potluck lunch of fellowship and reflection at the Porters Creek Pavilion. Times and details to be announced as they are confirmed with information on their website, www.smhclub.org.

No comments :

Post a Comment