Great Smoky Mountains National Park personnel and emergency response agencies located Yogesh Patel, a 25-year-old man, Sept. 15 in 18 feet of water at a Haywood County waterfall inside the park.
Patel, of Oak Forest, Illinois, was reported missing just after 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15 when he reportedly fell into the water at Midnight Hole and was observed struggling. Bystanders attempted to pull Patel from the water but were not successful, according to the National Park Service.
About 15 rescue agencies from North Carolina assisted in the search for Yogesh Patel, 25, who was found Sept. 15 and had drowned in Midnight Hole in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo: Courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
Midnight Hole is in the Big Creek area in the northeast section of the North Carolina side. It is about 1.5 miles up Big Creek Trail and is actually a small waterfall and local swimming area, said park spokeswoman Jamie Sanders.
Great Smokies search and rescue personnel and emergency response agencies located Patel’s body just after noon Tuesday, according to the Park Service.
He was discovered in 18 feet of water in Midnight Hole by rescue divers and was removed by emergency response personnel shortly before 1 p.m.
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“Mr. Patel was walking along a log that extended into the swimming hole when he slipped off the log and into the water. The log was located at the edge of the shore below the waterfalls,” Sanders said. “His family was with him at the time.”
Sanders said a total of 43 emergency response personnel from North Carolina and Tennessee assisted with the recovery effort and investigation, and at least 14 agencies, including:
Haywood County Emergency Management Agency, Haywood County Rescue Squad, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, Haywood County Emergency Medical Services, Fines Creek Fire Department, Jonathan Creek Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Clyde Fire Department, Newport Rescue Squad, Center Pigeon Fire and Rescue, Henderson County Rescue Squad and Dive Team, Asheville Rescue Squad and Dive Team and Cherokee Tribal Medical Examiner’s Office.
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Great Smokies rangers and Haywood County first responders are searching for a 25-year-old man who went missing in Midnight Hole, seen here, in the Big Creek area on the North Carolina side of the park (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Carr)
This is at least the second drowning and at least the ninth fatality in the park this year.
The Great Smokies is the most visited national park in the country with a record 12.5 million visitors in 2019. It covers a half-million acres of rugged, remote, forested terrain across some of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States on the east Tennessee-Western North Carolina border.
Spokeswoman Dana Soehn said the Smokies has about 100 search and rescue operations a year, most of which are successful.
Karen Chávez is an award-winning outdoors and environment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times and USA TODAY Network. She is the author of “Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina,” and is a former National Park Service ranger.
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