TOWNSEND (WATE) – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park says an 18-year-old who was missing for 11 days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been located after walking out of the park on his own.
Park rangers said Austin Bohanan, 18, walked out of the remote backcountry area near Tabcat Creek around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. He was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville by a Rural/Metro ambulance.
Search crews have been looking for Bohanan since he was reported missing on Sunday, August 13. Bohanan disappeared the previous Friday while hiking with his stepfather, but was not reported missing until the following Sunday.
Bohanan told rangers that after becoming separated from his stepfather he climbed to the top of the ridge in the Shop Creek area to try to make a phone call to his mother for help. After his attempts failed, he tried to follow a creek out of the woods. He says he thinks he followed Tabcat and Panther creeks upstream and downstream for days. He tried to find his way back to Highway 129 but had to go through dense vegetation in drainages and blowdowns.
“From day one, we treated the search for Austin as an emergency and appreciate the resources from across the region that came to our aid to help us actively and aggressively search through extremely tough terrain,” said Park Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We faced multiple challenges, including a moving target in dense conditions, but our search teams never gave up hope.”
Teams traversed densely steep slopes within the 6,700 acre search area. Community members had been supplying resources like food and water to assist with the search effort. Over 100 people helped with the search. The search included canine units, boat operations, aerial and ground crews.
“We are so grateful for all the love, prayers and support from everyone!” said his aunt Carrie Bohanan.
Blount Memorial Hospital reported Austin Bohanan was discharged just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.