Multiple East Tennessee agencies aid successful search for missing hiker in Smokies


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have found a missing hiker Kevin Lynch who was in the woods for four nights in the backcountry of the park.

Park officials said about 60 agencies helped search for Lynch for five days.

At least 12 agencies that joined the efforts were from East Tennessee.

Michael Hodges, chief deputy of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department, said that his department, along with Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville police departments were asked to help on Tuesday.

“When somebody like Haywood County calls, that’s a terrain feature that we’re familiar with because obviously our side of the state, we have several thousand acres ourselves. So for us to be able to navigate through that, it’s something that our men were familiar with,” Hodges said.

He said that even though his crews were familiar with similar terrain, joining the search on the fifth day wouldn’t be easy.

“You’re worried about what could’ve happened to him. You’re talking about somebody who probably hasn’t had anything to eat or drink in five days, and it’s been pretty warm,” Hodges said.

He said tough terrain and wildlife also come into play when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is involved.

RELATED: GSMNP searchers find missing New Jersey hiker lost since Saturday

Park officials said that Lynch was found about three-quarters of a mile from where he was last seen.

“Some of the pictures I was getting today were just, I mean it was crazy how densely wooded that area was,” Hodges said.

The crews from Sevier County knew what to look for, and weren’t far off from the trail that led to Lynch, Hodges said.

“When you start seeing you know, freshly broken limbs and things like that, you feel like you’re in a place where somebody’s been there,” he said.

Lynch was found alert and responsive just before 4:30 p.m. by searchers near the Cataloochee Divide Trail on the North Carolina side of the park.

Hodges said once a team found Lynch’s hat, they reset their search areas starting at that location.

“You start getting text messages and the first one says, ‘We found him but we’re not sure what his status is,’ and then ‘we’re not sure what his condition is, but we’re hopeful.’ Then you get a text that says ‘he’s alert and awake and they’re transporting him to the hospital,'” Hodges said.

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