According to the NPS Morning Report, two searches are now currently underway in the Smokies - the continuing effort to find Derek Leuking, 24, missing since March 15th, and a new search begun yesterday afternoon for a missing and despondent 23-year-old man.
Approximately 30 searchers, three tracking dog teams and a helicopter were employed in yesterday's search for Leuking. Park trackers and search dog team followed up on a couple of potential clues that might help determine his route after leaving his vehicle. Other teams worked the expanded search area, which now includes the overlooks along Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road. A helicopter from the North Carolina Highway Patrol surveyed the areas along Newfound Gap Road and some of the trails that are accessed from the Newfound Gap Trailhead. Personnel were also posted at some of the park's other popular trailheads, such as Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, Sugarlands Visitor Center and Clingmans Dome. They are handing out flyers in hopes that somebody coming out of the backcountry may have seen Leuking.
A second search was begun yesterday when an abandoned vehicle was found along the Newfound Gap Road. Investigation revealed that the 23-year-old operator was believed to be despondent. Hasty searchers and dog teams began looking for him yesterday, and the operation will be expanded today.
We'll post more details here as they become available.