Some Smokies disappearances never solved
From Staff Reports
The search for missing Louisville resident Derek Joseph Lueking is among many in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Spokesman Bob Miller said there are about 20 to 30 searches initiated for missing people in the Park each year, but most have happy endings. “They resolve themselves and, typically, it’s within 12-24 hours max. It’s usually not even overnight.”
Only a handful of searches take more than a few days. “Typically, we won’t have even one of these searches that we’re in right now in a year. We’ve had people on this since Friday.”
In January 2003, then-16-year-old Andrew Amburgy, of Cedar Grove, Ind., was lost in the vicinity of Laurel Falls for 24 hours. A searcher found him early on the second day of his ordeal about six miles from the Laurel Falls trailhead.
A few searches ended in tragedy. That was the case of 13-year-old Brad Lavies, of Adamsville, Ala., who disappeared in 1993 while hiking to Rainbow Falls on Mount LeConte with family members. He was missing for six days before searchers found him dead in a creek at the base of a 100-foot cliff.
Without a trace
A handful of people have vanished into the rugged Smoky Mountains without a trace. Perhaps the most famous of these was Dennis Martin, who disappeared in 1967 while on a family hike to Spence Field. Despite days of searching by nearly 1,000 people, there was never a trace found of the boy.
There were other unsolved disappearances:
• Trenny Gibson, 16, disappeared Oct. 8, 1976, while she was on a Bearden High School field trip with other students.
• Thelma Pauline Melton, 58, of Jacksonville, Fla., was hiking near Deep Creek Campground on Sept. 25, 1981, with two friends when she went missing.
“We’ve had numerous other people who were never found,” Miller said. “Mostly they are suicides.”
If someone goes into the Park with the intention to lose themselves forever, it’s entirely possible they could, Miller said. “Obviously in an 800-square-mile park, if you were determined not to be found, you could find a place you couldn’t be.”