Body of hiker found 7 days after disappearance in Smokies

Published: Sep. 27, 2018 at 9:58 AM EDT
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, 7 days after the Ohio mother disappeared in the the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

WVLT News is waiting to find out if and when an autopsy will take place.

Hours before crews found her body, helicopters searched briefly in the morning and crews focused on off trail areas and used dogs in hopes of finding the 53-year-old Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements who was hiking with her daughter on the Forney Ridge Trail, near Andrews Bald when the two separated.

Park officials said the two purposefully separated with a plan to meet back at the Clingmans Dome parking lot. According to rangers, the daughter was hiking ahead and moving faster, which is why the two decided to separate.

In the days following her disappearance, trained personnel from cooperating agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia helped park staff in the large-scale search effort.

Around 125 trained searchers and logistical support personnel from more than 30 state and local agencies and search and rescue organizations participated.

Specialized search and rescue drones, operated by FAA-licensed pilots were used in some areas to help search for Clements.

By closing the seven-mile Clingmans Dome Road on Thursday night, the park transformed the Clingmans Dome parking area into a field “incident command post” from which to manage the complex search. Infrastructure such as tents and self-contained mobile command buses served as portable offices for search personnel and provided a place for searchers to escape the elements, refuel, and receive instructions before heading back out to continue the search for Clements.

Park officials reopened the road to the public on Wednesday.

Rangers even brought in a mobile cell tower from Verizon Wireless to provide wireless service to assist in search efforts.

The SPOT (Satellite Pico Cell on a Trailer) featured a 30-foot antenna mast with the satellite dish on top of the trailer, which included a portable mini-satellite dish to provide additional wireless service for first responders who searched remote areas where reception could be spotty.

Park officials were alerted that Clements was missing on Tuesday, September 25, and began searching the immediate area with no success.

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