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Search In Progress For Missing Hiker

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park News

About 30 people are involved in a search for Derek Leuking, 24, of Louisville, Tennessee, who has been missing since last Thursday. Leuking’s car was found on Saturday morning at the Newfound Gap parking area in the middle of the park. On Saturday and Sunday, rangers hiked over 40 miles of trails that radiate out from Newfound Gap, looking for signs of Leuking and interviewing hikers they encountered to see if anybody had met him, but without success. Search managers now believe that he’s off-trail if he is still in the park. Three search dog teams combed the woods yesterday along the Appalachian Trail and along an old, abandoned section of U.S. 441 that leaves the parking lot southbound.  A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter has been assigned to search the area from the air. Searchers from Blue Ridge Parkway have joined Great Smokies staff in the effort. Cherokee Tribal EMS has a unit on scene, and three dog teams – two from the North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association and the third from the South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association – are also supporting the operation. Rangers have also considered that Leuking may have left the park and are asking anybody who may have seen him since Saturday to contact the park at (865) 436-1230.


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