17 August 2017

Austin Bohanan's mother speaks out on Facebook, canines join search for Blount County teen missing six days in the Great Smoky Mountains

Cynthia Clark/Smoky Mountain Post

Austin Bohanan's mother said on social media that if she could change things, she would have reported her son missing right away instead of waiting two days. Bohanan has been missing six days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Christa Dyer, Bohanan's birth mother, has reached out on social media asking for prayers from the public. When asked yesterday for details about her son's disappearance, she commented, "He left with my husband Friday to go hiking on Chehowee [sic] Lake and they got separated. He's always right behind and then he wasn't. We have been all over that place all weekend looking for him ..."
Austin Bohanan, pictured in a photo
shared on Facebook by a family member.
18-year-old Austin Bohanan,
missing since Friday in the Smokies.

She added in later comments, "And he did not leave him. He got lost. My husband lost his glasses and can't see an inch in front of his face and he thought he was behind him ..."

Quoting from her Facebook page, Dyer went on to comment, "We were looking for him all weekend long. My husband knows that mountains [sic] very very well and I waited for him to come out the last time and I contacted the authorities for some more help because we knew we needed it at that point."

When pressed about why they waited two days to contact authorities, Dyer responded, "Because we thought he would come out. Me and my husband were in there the whole weekend looking for him and my husband reassured me that he would come out somewhere cuz [sic] Austin is a smart boy so he reassured me he would come out if I could do that if I could change things I sure as hell would I would have them in their [sic] right away."

Two search and rescue dog teams, provided by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, joined 30 trained emergency responders in the search for the missing Blount County teenager, who was reportedly last seen hiking off-trail with his stepfather in the remote southwest corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday evening, Aug. 11. Family members reported him missing to the park’s Emergency Communication Center Sunday evening at about 8 p.m.

Family members and friends are circulating
these missing person posters for Austin Bohanan.
The National Park Service said in a news release today that the ground search teams were navigating dense vegetation and difficult terrain in the remote southwest corner of the park near Chilhowee Lake. Search teams are primarily conducting linear searches of drainages and ridges looking for any evidence of human travel in the rugged wilderness area, the release said.

Bohanan's stepmother, Brooke Bohanan, said last night, "There are some things that the park can not tell us due to the investigation. So we do not have a whole lot of details." She also noted that the "emotional pain that is so high right now" has kept them from talking to Austin's birth mother and stepfather about their missing son.

Austin's friends and family members are circulating missing person posters in hopes of helping locate him.

Bohanan is a white male between 5’2”-5’5” feet tall, weighs between 120-150 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, unknown color t-shirt, and blue Nike baseball cap.

If anyone has seen Bohanan since Friday evening please call the park at (865) 436-1230.

Search and Rescue team members navigate dense vegetation in the
search for Austin Bohanan, missing since Friday, Aug. 11. (National Park Service)

14 August 2017

New details in search for Blount County teen still missing in Smokies, Park officials request canine search teams from TEMA

Austin Bohanan was last seen wearing a blue
Nike baseball cap, unknown color t-shirt & jeans.

UPDATE Aug. 16: The search continues for missing Blount County teen Austin Bohanan, who was reported missing in the Great Smoky Mountains Park officials on Sunday by family members, although he has actually been missing since Friday.

Bohanan was reportedly last seen hiking off-trail in the remote southwest corner of the park on the evening of Friday, Aug. 11. Family members reported him missing at approximately 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13 to the park’s Emergency Communication Center.

On social media, Bohanan's birth mother Christa Dyer posted to family and friends, saying Bohanan had gone missing while hiking with her husband on Friday. "He left with my husband Friday to go hiking on Chehowee [sic] Lake and they got separated. He's always right behind and then he wasn't. We have been all over that place all weekend looking for him ..." Dyer wrote.

Search and Rescue at morning briefing.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported that late yesterday afternoon, Tennessee Highway Patrol utilized a Bell Jet Ranger Helicopter to conduct visual search of the area with no significant findings.

This morning five search teams consisting of rangers from the park’s Search and Rescue team, officers with Tennessee Wildlife Resource Authority and individuals with the Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue team (BUSAR) have a total of 24 individuals searching the area.

Park officials have also requested the assistance of two canine search teams through Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to assist with search efforts.

At this time, search operations remain limited to a select number of trained searchers to enable a systematic, thorough search of the area. By limiting the number of searchers in the area, rangers have the best chance to find Bohanan quickly. Dog teams and trackers can be hampered by additional people in the area when searchers are looking for signs of hiker travel.

Bohanan is a white male between 5’2”-5’5” feet tall, weighs between 120-150 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, unknown color t-shirt, and blue Nike baseball cap. If anyone has seen Bohanan since Friday evening please call the park at (865) 436-1230.

Members of the National Park Service, TWRA and
BUSAR team have their morning briefing
regarding the search for Austin Bohanan.
# # #

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rangers are searching for a Blount County teen believed to be lost in the southwest area of the park. Eighteen-year old, Austin Bohanan was reported missing at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 13.

Rangers initiated a ground search on Monday morning, August 14, with 13 members of the Park Search and Rescue Team.

The search is focused in the southwest area of the park near Highway 129.

No additional details are available at this time.

21 July 2017

Clingmans Dome Road to Close Aug. 19-21 for Solar Eclipse Viewing

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reminding visitors that Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to all access beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 through the evening of Monday, August 21 following the event. No overnight parking will be allowed at Clingmans Dome Parking Area or pull-offs, parking areas, and trailheads along the road during this time period. The road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

During the closure, all trails, campsites and shelters in the backcountry will remain open, but backpackers should carefully consider the road closure when planning their itineraries. All vehicles must be clear of Clingmans Dome Road by 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 19. An interactive map is available on the park website at http://go.nps.gov/GRSM_ECLIPSE where backcountry users can view which backcountry campsites are within the path of totality.

Clingmans Dome Road is the only park road closed for the solar eclipse event, but park visitors should be prepared for high volume traffic across all park roads on Monday, August 21. Vehicles cannot stop in the roadway and must be parked in designated parking areas. If roads become congested or cause a safety concern, rangers may temporarily close them to additional inbound traffic until after the eclipse to reduce traffic congestion and allow access for emergency response. Visitors should expect temporary road closures throughout the day.

While the western half of the park lies within the path of totality, there are limited roads and parking areas available for travel. The risk of traffic jams and road closures is likely to increase throughout the morning of August 21. Managers suggest that visitors plan ahead to find the right eclipse experience for their situation. Many communities outside of the national park are hosting special events to observe and celebrate the celestial phenomena and those locales may be a great alternative for locals or travelers not wanting to risk traffic congestion in the park. Visit the park website for more information at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/2017-solar-eclipse.htm.

16 July 2017

Nashville Man Dies of Heart Attack on Alum Cave Trail Hike after Night at LeConte Lodge

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rangers responded to a report of man in cardiac distress on Alum Cave Trail at approximately 9:59 a.m. on Saturday, July 15. Phillip Basset Davenport, age 47, from Nashville, TN was hiking down the Alum Cave Trail from Mt. Le Conte with a group of friends after staying the previous night at LeConte Lodge.

He suddenly passed out 3 miles from the trailhead and bystanders administered CPR while park medics responded. Davenport passed away at approximately 11:14 a.m.

Davenport was carried off the trail by Park Rangers and then transported by the Gatlinburg Fire Department to LeConte Medical Center.

07 January 2017

Missing hikers found uninjured but cold and hungry in Pisgah National Forest's Shining Rock Wilderness

Two men missing since Thursday in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina have been found. A news release Saturday evening stated the men were airlifted and were being transported to an area hospital. Helicopters belonging to The North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Mountain Area Medical Airlift and NCHART (North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team), aided in locating and extracting the hikers. No additional information on their condition is expected this evening.

County officials confirmed that the hikers were spotted by a helicopter brought in to aid the search and the helicopter crew was able to let the hikers know they had been spotted.

Big East Fork Trailhead command center. (Photo The Mountaineer)
The two men, one identified as 23-year-old David Crockett of Charlotte, NC, started a day-hike around noon on Thursday into the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest near the Big East Fork Trailhead. They were able to contact authorities in a 911 call early Saturday morning, but still had no idea where they were. Crockett's mother, Denise Crockett, confirmed to family friends that her son and his hiking partner, who hasn't been identified, were found, according to Haywood County's The Mountaineer newspaper.

Crockett is a student at UNC-Charlotte, studying accounting and finance. His mother and two siblings live in Albemarle. He is also a highly esteemed cheerleading coach of the Rockstar cheerleading squad from Gastonia, whose members were understandably very worried for his well-being, according to The Mountaineer. Family friend Kindra Rabon said the men were not injured from the ordeal but were understandably cold and hungry when rescued.

Crockett's mother said David is relatively new to hiking, having taken up the hobby just a few months ago. He has only been on a few small day hikes prior to this, she said.

“I’m sure he wasn’t really prepared for the situation he found himself in,” she said.

David Crockett, at left in orange, with the Rockstars,
the cheerleading squad he coaches in Gastonia.
(Photo courtesy Kendall Hunt to The Mountaineer)
A large rescue effort was mobilized to find the missing hikers. The men called authorities from a non-traceable cell phone on Friday morning and indicated they were off-trail and lost. Neither man was injured and they said they were staying in place, awaiting rescue, according to WLOS-News 13 in Western North Carolina.

The Mountaineer reported that the men again contacted authorities shortly after daybreak on Saturday, letting them know their fire was still going and they had found shelter. Teams were deployed on Saturday to the highest points on the ridge with high-powered binoculars capable of seeing even the faintest smoke signal.

Haywood County EMS Coordinator Greg Shuping told The Mountaineer that yesterday — and late into last night — crews searched areas near the trail and the highest points along the ridges where there is the greatest possibility to gain a cell signal, but didn't have any luck.

The Mountaineer reported that Haywood County Public Information Officer Donna Stewart said the hikers had been out in the wilderness since Thursday afternoon. Search teams were dispatched Friday morning, Stewart said, and three search teams worked through the night. Rested teams, which are highly trained in mountain search techniques, began searching Saturday. Each team consists of four to six members. The search teams are associated with agencies in multiple counties, including the Haywood County Search and Rescue.

Search and rescue teams were called out to the Big East Fork trailhead on U.S. 276 around 10 a.m. Friday and were operating out of a base camp set up where the hikers' vehicle was found. The camp included two trailers and a tent.

The trail into the wilderness area is unblazed and extremely steep and rugged in places. Conditions are difficult even in summer months. During the winter, the trail often ices over and can become extremely treacherous.

Friday afternoon, Haywood County EMS Supervisor Ben Clausen told The Mountaineer that because the cell phone the hikers used to call 911 had such a low battery, communication had been spotty and brief and their location was unknown.

"They have no idea where they are," he said. "They have no compass, maps, GPS, nothing with them."

Starting Friday night, a special alpine rescue team joined the search. "They are mountain search and rescue teams that are actually trained in alpine type search and rescue situations," he said. "They’re specially equipped for cold weather snow search situations."

Temperatures dipped into the low teens Friday night when heavy snowfall impeded visibility as crews searched through the night. Temperatures are predicted to reach 0 degrees tonight.

As searchers combed the mountain Saturday, the wind speed was just 5 miles an hour, but the combination of wind and low temperatures created a penetrating cold. The conditions were far worse for the lost hikers than those searching for them as the teams of four that were methodically searching the target area had gear designed for just such circumstances.

-- All information obtained from The Mountaineer Newspaper in Haywood County, NC and WLOS News 13 in Western North Carolina. Read more about it on The Mountaineer's website.