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Missing Charlotte Hiker Found Safe Sunday Evening in Blowing Rock

By Nathan Ham

A hiker from Charlotte who planned on taking a day hike on Saturday afternoon was located on Sunday evening by area search crews.

Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue as well as several other agencies located Frank Sanady, 67, of Charlotte and was able to safely rescue him at approximately 5:10 p.m. on Sunday evening.

According to Sergeant Shane Robbins of the Boone Police Department, Sanady began his hike at noon on Saturday. When he did not return by early Saturday evening, Blowing Rock Emergency Services were notified and launched a search and recovery operation.

Crews worked overnight to find the hiker and were eventually able to locate him on Sunday morning at around 11:30 a.m. It took rescuers over five hours to bring Sanady to safety.

“Mr. Sanady was uninjured but very fatigued,” Robbins said in a statement.

Sanady did have a cell phone on him, however cell phone service in the area where Sanady was recovered was spotty at best, making it almost impossible for him to call for help, especially where the elevation drops so much. 

According to a social media post from Watauga County Emergency Management, Sanady was located in an area of the China Creek Trail where the steep terrain and weather conditions eliminated the possibility of using a helicopter rescue to pull him to safety.

China Creek Trail is a very difficult trail, according to Blowing Rock Fire Chief Kent Graham.

“He (Sanady) is an experienced hiker and a bit of a gear hound. He had some equipment and certainly had some knowledge but the China Creek Trail is not a joke. If one good-sized tree is down across the China Creek Trail and you go around it either direction to try and traverse back to the trail, just that much is enough to throw you off the trail, especially if you’re running out of light,” Graham said. “It’s a tough trail. He was about 1,500 feet off the trail with about 500-600 feet of elevation change from where the trail was.”

K9 teams and thermal imaging technology drones were also used in the search. Graham said that there were some heat signatures discovered earlier in the search that did not turn out to be the hiker, forcing the team to wait until daylight. 

Graham said they suspended their initial search at 5 a.m. on Sunday. After reassembling search teams at 9 a.m. with a team of just Blowing Rock Fire personnel, they were able to locate him. 

“We sent in medics from Blowing Rock Fire and Caldwell County and they were able to assist him back to the trail where they intersected and transferred the patient over to the Mountain Rescue Team,” Graham said. “They chose to extract him through the top to the trail head.”

The trail head is located across the road from the horse show grounds. 

“The trail drops a couple thousand feet really quick,” Graham added. 

Agencies that helped with the search and recovery efforts included Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue, Blowing Rock Police, Boone Police, Watauga County Emergency Management, Caldwell County Emergency Management, Collettsville Fire Department, Linville Central Rescue, Granite Falls Fire Department, Blue Ridge Parkway Ranger, NC Park Service, NC Wildlife, NC Emergency Management and Nelson Aerials.