A missing hiker found off a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Thursday had been tied to a tree, according to emergency radio call recordings obtained by local TV station WLOS.
In the recordings, a firefighter with the Reems Creek Volunteer Fire Department tells a dispatcher the 64-year-old woman is alive.
“She’s not deceased at this time,” a rescue worker at the scene told a dispatcher. “She is tied to a tree. This is the one they were looking for.”
The hiker was found near Potato Fields Gap, which is less than four miles from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.
Rescuers started looking for the woman after she sent texts to her caretaker and friend, who called 911 at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the Citizen-Times reported. The caller told dispatchers that the woman was having an unspecified emergency.
“She has something that looks like seizures, and when she does, she is conscious long enough sometimes to send a text but generally it renders her somewhat mute,” the caller says in a 911 recording, according to the newspaper.
The woman was located about an hour later and transported to Mission Hospital. Law enforcement officials would only say that she was injured, WLOS reported. Her condition was not known.
National Park Service investigators later released a description of a “possible suspect” in the case, the TV station reported.
The man was described as white, about 50 years old, with salt-and-pepper colored hair. He was said to have partially grown-in facial hair and was wearing a light- or faded-gray T-shirt, old baggy blue pants and dark-colored tennis shoes.
He may have given off a musty odor due to being unwashed in several days, officials said.