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No Sign Of Tennessee Man Thought Missing In Great Smoky Mountains National Park


No signs have been found of a Tennessee man thought to be missing in the tangle of backcountry at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Approximately 30 searchers, three tracking dog teams, and a helicopter were continuing the search for Derek Joseph Leuking, 24, of Louisville, Tennessee, who was reported missing on March 15.  His vehicle was found on March 17 at 8:30 a.m. in the Newfound Gap Parking Area of the park.

So far the weather has been good for both searchers and Mr. Leuking, according to park spokesman Bob Miller.

"It's been in the 80s most days, and down in the 50s overnight. ...It's pretty survivable," he said this morning.

Park trackers and a search dog team were following up on some potential clues that might help determine Mr. Leuking’s route after leaving his vehicle. Other teams were expanding the areas being covered to include the overlooks along Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road.

A helicopter from the North Carolina Highway Patrol was surveying the areas along Newfound Gap Road, and some of the trails that are accessed from the Newfound Gap Trailhead.

Search personnel were being posted at some of the popular trailheads such as Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, Sugarlands Visitor Center, and Clingmans Dome, as well.  Those individuals were handing out flyers in hopes that somebody coming out of the backcountry may have seen the young man.

Mr. Miller said officials had no good picture of where Mr. Leuking might have been heading. However, he did say the man was not an experienced backcountry traveler and did not have a sleeping bag or tent with him.

"He had a daypack with him. There was a video of him checking out of the Microtell Hotel in Cherokee Saturday morning and he had a daypack with him at that time, and it wasn't in the car," the park official said. 

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