A search is underway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a man missing since Sept. 14.

Park officials and multiple emergency response agencies from Haywood County are searching for Yogesh Patel, a 25-year-old man from Oak Forest, Illinois, according to the National Park Service.

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)

Patel was reported missing at about 7:30 p.m. 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, the Park Service said in a statement.

Midnight Hole is in the Big Creek area in the northeast section of the North Carolina side of the park. 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. 

“Though people do swim there we do not recommend swimming as an activity for our visitors to pursue due to the dangers associated with water recreation,” Sanders said.

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Rangers and rescue personnel arrived on scene at 8 p.m. and began initial search operations, which came to a stop after dark.

A search is underway for a missing man who was last seen in Midnight Hole on the Big Creek Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Carr)

On the morning of Sept. 15, search efforts started up again.

There are no closures currently in effect. However, rangers say visitors may see temporary closures as search operations continue to allow the rescue teams safe access to the area. 

Related: Great Smokies wildlife technician one of few WNC Hispanics working in outdoors field

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 has previously said the Smokies has about 100 search and rescue operations a year.

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.

Reach me[email protected] or on Twitter @KarenChavezACT

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