Missing 13-year-old girl, 15-year-old boy found safe near national park, officials say

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A 13-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy who went missing in the area of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park were found safe Friday.

Erica Gamerdinger and Keith Griffith were located in Harrogate, Tennessee, about 5 miles from where the girl went missing earlier in the week, officials say. The children are in the process of being returned to their families, according to park rangers.

Erica went missing Monday from the Wilderness Road Campground at the park, which borders Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Rangers said Wednesday they believed she was with Keith, who is from Speedwell, Tennessee.

The mother of Erica feared they may be traveling toward Colorado or Alaska. Erica and her family are from Edgewood, Iowa, and were in Cumberland Gap on vacation.

The relationship between Erica and Keith has not been publicly disclosed.

“My family and I just don’t know how to thank you all for the help,” Erica’s father, Jamie Dinger, wrote on Facebook. “Everyone we talked to wanted to help. We are so grateful for everything.”

Before Erica went missing, she sent a text message with the letters “SOS” with a map of her location, Jen Gamerdinger told WVLT.

Erica’s aunt, Christina Marie Johari, said Wednesday night family members believed there was “imminent danger” to Erica and Keith’s lives.

Another one of Erica’s aunts, Julie Gamerdinger-Rottinghaus, said authorities were “searching from sun up till after dark” for the teenagers.

Cumberland Gap park officials said the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office, the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Parks, and the Virginia State Police were involved in the rescue of the children.

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