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3 still lost in the Smokies

3 still lost in the Smokies
GATLINBURG (AP) — Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park deal with lost visitors every year and most all of them are found.
Three missing person incidents, however, still are unsolved and are known internally as “the big three.”
WVLT-TV (http://bit.ly/JSvkuv) reported there are still puzzles around the disappearances of two children and one adult in different parts of the Smokies in different decades.
Six-year-old Dennis Martin disappeared while playing at his family’s campsite in 1969. In 1976, 16-year-old Trennie Gibson was last seen on a field trip with her friends. Polly Melton, who was 51, disappeared from a popular hiking trail in 1981.
In all of the cases, searchers combed miles of trails, looking for clues, but came up empty.
Park spokesman Bob Miller says it’s likely the woman and the teen were either taken out of the park or left willingly. Officials think the young boy never left.
Other cases have unfortunate endings, but sometimes intentionally.
“We average about six suicides a year here,” said Bob Miller, longtime park spokesman. “Typically, they are in front country areas and in a vehicle.”
On March 26, rangers called off simultaneous searches for two men whose cars were found abandoned.
Up to 60 people per day had been looking for a week for Derek Leuking, 24, of Blount County when the car belonging to 23-year-old Michael Giovanni Cocchini of Nashville was discovered.
No trace of either has been found and park officials say it’s unclear what became of them.
Just over 9 million people visited the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border in 2011.
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Information from: WVLT-TV, http://www.volunteertv.com/

Published in The Messenger 5.03.12

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