• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Drowning at Townsend Wye

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Date: July 11, 2011
Contact: Nancy Gray, (865) 436-1208

A drowning victim was recovered from Great Smoky Mountains National Park today in a section of the Little River at the Townsend Wye, a popular day use area in Blount County.

Dick Chijioke, 34, from Plano, TX, was tubing with his family when his rental tube tipped and he fell into a 12-foot deep pool of water. Eyewitnesses reported that he failed to resurface after he slipped out of the innertube. Several people from his group, along with other visitors, attempted to find him underwater before the emergency personnel arrived.

The Park received a report about the accident at 11:22 a.m. from Blount County 911. The Blount County Special Operations Dive team was called in to assist with their underwater rescue gear and they located Chijioke at 12:26 p.m. near the area where he fell into the water. Rural Metro paramedics tried to resuscitate him on the way to Blount Memorial Hospital, but he was pronounced dead by hospital officials at 1:05 p.m.

Other emergency crews assisting Park Rangers were the Townsend Police and Volunteer Fire Departments, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, and Blount County Fire Department.

Did You Know?

An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001.

An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid 1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls. More...