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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials continue to search for Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, who was last seen in the Clingmans Dome area of the park on Tuesday, September 25. Trained personnel from cooperating agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia have responded to assist park staff in a large-scale search effort for the missing woman in steep, rugged terrain.
As of Saturday, around 125 trained searchers and logistical support personnel from more than 30 state and local agencies and search and rescue organizations are participating in the search operation led by the National Park Service. Helicopters and multiple canine teams have been deployed for the search effort. Specialized search and rescue drones, operated by FAA-licensed pilots are being used in some areas to help search for Clements. Searchers have worked through rain, fog, wind and low temperatures in the 40s over the last several days in this mountainous region which straddles two states and several counties. Today’s forecast calls for clearer skies and drier air, a welcome change for search personnel.
By closing the seven-mile Clingmans Dome Road on Thursday night, the park was able to transform 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 busses serve as portable offices for search personnel and provide a place for searchers to escape the elements, refuel, and receive instructions before heading back out to continue the search for Clements.
Verizon Wireless established a mobile cell booster, which is now providing the critical cell and data coverage needed to effectively manage and support the search effort in this remote location. Even the closed road itself has been used as a landing zone for aircraft that are assisting in the search as weather permits. Clingmans Dome Road remains closed for the duration of this critical search operation.
At this time additional volunteer searchers are not being sought, as search operations are limited to trained searchers to enable a systematic, thorough search of the area. “This is unforgiving terrain, and we are working long hours to find Ms. Clements,” said Acting Chief Ranger Jared St. Clair. “We are extremely grateful for the rapid response by so many well-trained personnel and the generous support resources that our cooperators have dedicated to this search.”
Cooperating organizations include: Backcountry 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, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, Catons Chapel-Richardson Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Cherokee Indian Police Department, Cherokee Tribal EMS, Gatlinburg Police Department, 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, Northview Kodak Fire Department, 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 Emergency Management Agency, and Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
Susan Clements was last seen on the Forney Ridge Trail approximately ¼ mile from Andrews Bald on Tuesday, September 25 at 5 pm. She is a white female with light brown hair and blue eyes, is 5’6” tall, and weighs 125 pounds. She is wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho, and white tennis shoes with purple laces.
Anyone who saw Clements on Tuesday afternoon or since then is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch through one of the following methods: 1-888-653-0009, www.nps.gov/isb and click “submit a tip,” email e-mail us, or via a message on Facebook at “InvestigativeServicesNPS,” or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS.