COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – The Cocke County Emergency Management Agency is deploying its Swift Water Rescue Team to aid in a search for a missing North Carolina man. 

Philip Shelton went missing in Madison County, North Carolina when he decided to go fishing on the French Broad River that runs from North Carolina into East Tennessee. Now, emergency management teams from both states are searching for Shelton as his family pleads for anyone who lives by the river to be on the lookout.

”He [Shelton] spent a lot of his time on the river. He grew up on the river on the river fishing swimming all of the above,” said Dallas Burleson, Shelton’s niece.

She said her uncle went missing on February 18th.

“We believe he put in at the river around 10 and 11 that same morning. His dog was found between four and 5 o’clock that afternoon by his friend,” Burleson said.

She said search efforts have been going on for several days. His backpack and canoe have been found, but Shelton is still missing. 

When Cocke County’s Emergency Management Team heard about the news, they decided to help.

“Four of the 11 operators are going to launch tomorrow morning somewhere just above the North Carolina state line roundabout where Madison County would’ve left off their search,” Emergency Management Director and Swift Water Team Lader Joe Esway said. “We’re launching out kayaks behind us. Two teams of two. One river left, one river right, and then we’ll ride that for probably five hours and do an exhaustive search of the banks, in the trees, in the rocks, in anything in any place that we feel like something could be found.”

Esway said Shelton could be anywhere by now.

“We’ve had a lot of rain. Dam and floodgates have been opened and closed the last several days. I’ve seen this water, move folders and move railroad trusses in the different positions. It’s an unbelievable force of nature. Anything could happen.”

Shelton’s niece says she’s grateful for any help they can get.

“My hope is that he’s found and my greatest fear is that he’s gone, but we want him found and we want to bring him home.”

Cocke County Emergency Management officials said anyone who works or lives by the river who may have seen anything is asked to call 911 and stay at that location until authorities arrive. 

Esway said as his team searches the river, local volunteer fire departments will be searching by land for any signs of Shelton.