Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said Wednesday that 32-year-old Chris Lewis of Louisville was hiking with his brothers in the mountains of Wednesday morning.
Parsons said that the brothers, whose names were not available at press time, decided to stop and take some photos. When they finished, they did not see Lewis and assumed he'd gone on to the sand cave. When the two got to the sand cave, Lewis was no where to be found and they never saw him on the trails.
Shortly after 2 p.m. , Parsons said the two brothers backtracked to see if they could find him but the two never could locate Lewis.
The Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Department, Thomas Walker Rescue Squad, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Cumberland Gap National Park Service were all dispatched for a search and rescue mission.
Search teams were formed shortly before 8 p.m. at the Civic Park in Ewing to do a begin a complete search of the walking trails from bottom to the top of the mountain. National Park rangers believe it is possible that Lewis might have gotten turned around and got off the main trail somewhere in the mountains.
Crews spent more than four hours in the mountains on four-wheelers and on foot searching for Lewis. They covered the sand cave, all the trails and even performed a wide search of Hensley's Settlement. The forestry department brought in a bloodhound to try and pick up any scent from Lewis in hopes of finding him.
”It's possible he's hunkered down for the night if he's off the trail,“ said Parsons. ”And, it's possible that after dark, he could have became disoriented and walked off on the other side to Kentucky.“
Lewis was last seen in a t-shirt and jeans and Parsons said that he has no jacket, no food or water. But, he added Lewis has no history of health problems according to his family and Parsons said he is confident this man will be found ok.
”I feel like if we don't find him at night, when daylight comes, he will definitely be found. We won't give up until he is.“
The park service called off the search shortly after midnight and will resume the search for Lewis this morning at 6 a.m. Rangers did ask all rescue personal to bring food and water because it is possible Thursday's search could go into the night hours again.