Austin Bohanan walked out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tenn. Tuesday, unharmed. He had been missing for 11 days.
A Tennessee teenager Austin Bohanan, 18, was hiking with his stepfather when the pair became separated on Aug. 11. He was not seen aging for nearly two weeks. Young Bohanan wandered out of the woods Tuesday after spending 11 days lost in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Search crews, including canine units, boat operations, aerial and ground crews, began looking for him on Sunday, Aug. 13, when he was reported missing.
Bohanan told park rangers that he attempted to call for help after he became separated from his stepfather.
He climbed to the top of a ridge in the Shop Creek area of the park and tried to call his mother — but repeated calls to her failed to connect.
However, on his 11th day of being lost in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and being “this close” to eating bugs, Austin woke up Tuesday morning on the top of a ridge, looked down, and saw boats floating on Abrams Creek, Chief Ranger Steve Kloster said.
Brooke Bohanan embraces Park Ranger Les Kwiatkowski after learning her stepson walked out of the park Tuesday Aug. 22, 2017, over a week after going missing in Tennessee.
Bohanan had tried to make his way out of the woods by following two different creeks in both directions for days, Chief Ranger Kloster said.
Ultimately, he was able to flag down a boat that delivered him safely to his family.
“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,” Park Chief Ranger Steve Kloster said. “We faced multiple challenges, including a moving target in dense conditions, but our search teams never gave up hope.”
More than 100 rescue team members covered a 6,700 acre search area including step slopes and densely wooded areas.
“Just saying he hiked down the creek sounds easy…it’s not,” Kloster said.
Austin was admitted to Blount Memorial Hospital Tuesday. He was discharged in good condition just after 7 p.m. the same day.
Kloster praised the community’s efforts.
“We all formed a very close bond and I think that’s very important not to forget in this incident,” he said.
He said that Austin went for “many days” without food and suggested that his account of what happened could be inaccurate since the teen had been in daze after his rescue.
“We’ll probably be going back maybe a week later and talk to Austin again and he may remember a little different than what he’s told us right now,” Kloster said.