Search continues in Rhea County for missing man, dog

·2 min read

May 12—Authorities in Rhea County are getting help from state and neighboring agencies in the search for a hiker who went missing late Monday in the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area north of Dayton, Tennessee.

North Carolina native Curtis Dustin Williams went hiking with a dog around 2 p.m. Monday at the popular 2,259-acre natural area known by most people as the "pocket wilderness," Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal said Wednesday.

Neal said Rhea County investigators are working with several agencies in the search.

Williams, who is in his 40s, is believed to have gone missing sometime around 5 p.m. Monday after he made his last Facebook post with a photo taken at a scenic overlook, said Rocky Potter, investigator for the department.

According to Tennessee State Parks information, there are more than 10 miles of hiking trails in the natural area looping past high waterfalls. People who saw Williams' post identified the area where he took a selfie as "Buzzard Point," one of two prominent overlooks there.

Rescuers from at least four counties and the Tennessee Highway Patrol's helicopter and airplane started searching for Williams on Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon tracking dogs and a drone team joined the search, Potter said.

Williams is originally from North Carolina but "has been in the Chattanooga area lately," Potter said.

"He came up here Monday morning, went hiking by himself with his dog at the pocket wilderness," he said. "He was making regular Facebook posts along the way to some church people and some friends, and 5 o'clock was his last post and there's been nothing from his phone since."

Investigators "pinged" Williams' cellphone in an attempt to find out where he was but the location was invalid and no help to searchers, Potter said.

"We've got some K9 teams out today. We've got some from Hamilton County and we've got our K9 team and we've probably got four to six dogs out here," he said.

"A drone team came up about an hour ago, and they're going to start flying and maybe they can pick up something," Potter said.

"We've not even located the dog," a frustrated Potter said. "No one's even found the dog wandering around anywhere."

Williams' disappearance remains a mystery but officials said there has been no indication of foul play.

"He was posting pretty regularly up until 5 [p.m.] Monday and then it just went silent," Potter said. Williams' car was still at the trailhead, he said.

Williams was wearing shorts, a maroon shirt and a North Carolina hat when he went missing, officials said.

Anyone who spots the missing man or has any information on his whereabouts is urged to call the Rhea County Sheriff's Office at 423-775-7837 or 911.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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