Searchers find body of missing hiker in Smokies
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced Tuesday night, October 2 that search crews found the body of Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, from Cleves, Ohio, after an extensive, week-long search.
Clements had been missing from the Clingmans Dome area of the park since Tuesday, September 25. A large-scale search operation was launched, which included trained searchers, canine teams, helicopters, and drones with advanced technology from around 50 local, state, and federal agencies and professional search and rescue groups.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Clements' body was found off-trail, in a rugged, heavily wooded area of the Huggins Creek drainage, approximately two miles from Clingmans Dome parking area and three-fourths mile south of the Appalachian Trail. The cause of death is under investigation, however foul play is not suspected at this time.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of Susan during this difficult time,” said park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are grieving with the family and hope that yesterday’s recovery helps provide some closure as they begin their own grieving process.” He added, “I am inspired by, and extremely grateful for, the tireless work of our park staff, as well as the generous assistance provided by dozens of agencies and well-trained search and rescue organizations.”
Clingmans Dome Road remains closed to allow staff time to remove the infrastructure brought in to help manage and support the search operation. The road and Clingmans Dome parking area are expected to reopen by tomorrow morning.
The family of Susan Clements provided this statement to share with the public:
“I want to specifically thank the National Park Service for their incredible efforts. The cooperation shown between more than 50 agencies was amazing, comforting, and very supportive. Every piece of the operation, including the scientific fronts, logistical parts, and the emotional support provided to us was very impressive. The children, her sisters, and I want to especially thank Jared St. Clair (Chief Ranger), Joe Pond (Incident Commander), James Latendresse (Operations Chief), and Florie Takaki (Family Liaison) for their dedication and support. We also want to thank the countless other people who helped look for Susan. This includes the ground searchers, pilots, drone operators, dog trackers, technicians, EMS providers, the many teams of tactical climbers and rescuers, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The kids, her sisters, and I greatly appreciate the intense work they performed for us, and we will be eternally grateful.”
An estimated 175 personnel assisted in the complex search operation of some of the most rugged terrain found in the park.
Cooperating organizations that assisted staff from Great Smoky Mountains National Park included: AmeriCorps, Back country Unit Search and Rescue, Black Diamond Search and Rescue, Blount County Rescue Squad, Blount County Special Operations Response Team, Blue and Gray Search and Rescue Dogs, Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, Catons Chapel-Richardson Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Cherokee Indian Police Department, Cherokee Tribal EMS, Christian Aid Ministries Search and Rescue, Gatlinburg Fire Department, Gatlinburg Police Department, Haywood County Search and Rescue, Henderson County Rescue Squad and EMS, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Knoxville-Knox County Emergency Management Agency, Maryville Police Department, North Carolina Emergency Management Agency, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Northview Kodak Fire Department, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, Sevierville Police Department, Southwest Virginia Mountain Rescue Group, Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, Smoky Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol, Smoky Mountain Search and Rescue Team, Swain County Emergency Management Agency, Swain County Rescue Squad, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Army National Guard, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Highway Patrol Rapid Response Team, Tennessee Search and Rescue Team, Tennessee State Parks, The Student Conservation Association, United States Forest Service Cherokee Hotshots, Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department, as well as National Park Service personnel from Blue Ridge Parkway, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Shenandoah National Park, and the Investigative Services Branch.