From The Hendersonville Times-News...
Search and rescue teams from every Henderson County fire department and two state agencies spent most of Sunday looking for two missing hikers who may have spent a chilly night in the rugged Green River Gamelands.
Jonathan Heatherly, 32, and Janice Collins, 56, left on a hike from the Deep Gap area around 1 p.m. Saturday and have not been seen since, said Capt. Lowell Griffin of the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.
Family members told authorities the pair was traveling across the mountain to the Big Hungry area, Griffin said, a hike that would typically take “a few hours.” When they hadn't returned by nightfall, relatives began their own search with flashlights around 1 a.m. Sunday.
The sheriff's office received a call about suspicious activity in the Deep Gap area and discovered the missing hikers' family members. Shortly thereafter, Dana Fire and Rescue dispatched ATV teams into the gamelands to look for the hikers.
Both hikers are familiar with the area they were traversing, Griffin said, especially Heatherly, who goes by “John Boy.” He is the son of Roger Heatherly of Dana and was last seen wearing
Heatherly and Collins were last seen walking toward Chigger Ridge in the Big Hungry area, along trails that Griffin said were considered steep and moderate-to-difficult in nature. It's unknown whether the pair carried water or supplies, he said.
Heatherly sometimes walks with a limp due to surgery on his right ankle, according to a profile used by search teams. But Heatherly's uncle, Michael Jones, said his biggest concern was his nephew or his companion might have been bitten by a snake.
“You just never know,” Jones said, as he strapped on a backpack Sunday to join in the search.
Temperatures overnight fell into the 50s, Griffin said, “so we're really not afraid of hypothermia. There's a lot of steep terrain here. Right now, we're more afraid of dehydration or somebody falling in this steep terrain and suffering some sort of injury.”
Dana Fire and Rescue set up a command post early Sunday on Laurel Mountain View Road, joined by search teams from Edneyville and Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue. They sent out ATV teams to look for the missing hikers before dawn, said Dana Fire Chief Ben Lanning.
“There are multiple places they could have come out,” Lanning said.
By mid-morning Sunday, search teams from every county fire department and the Henderson County Rescue Squad were summoned to the area to help with the search, along with a game warden from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
A North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter circled the area, and