CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - A father and son originally from Middletown, Ohio, were found dead during an 18-day hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.
Dwight and Dagan Cope were hiking the trail in the Cherokee National Forest in Carter County, Tenn. They left on June 18 and family expected their return on Friday. Instead, they were given tragic news.
The Carter County Rescue Squad was called by another hiker on the trail who saw two backpacks nearby the falls -- then spotted a man in the water.
Dwight, 42, was found face down, Wednesday, floating at the base of Laurel Falls, a waterfall on the Appalachian Trail. He was pronounced dead at the scene. They spent the remainder of the day searching for whom they assumed was a second hiker because of the pair of backpacks unattended.
His 15-year-old son, Dagan, was found Thursday by an aerial view at about 9:22 a.m. His body was recovered just before 1 p.m. He was also found face down at the base of the falls, near the place where his father was found.
“It’s possible one fell in and the other went in after him” or they were swimming, said Terry Arnold, Carter County Rescue Squad director.
Dwight, a former AK Steel worker, and his family, moved to Louisiana for a job welding on an oil rig, however, his large extended family in Middletown said that they were coming in this weekend for a family reunion. Something they did once a year, along with visits during the Christmas season.
“It’s horrible. Both of his parents have been gone for a while now and it’s just, he’s probably one of my closest cousins that I’ve lost. It’s just horrible,” said Mark Cope, Dwight’s cousin in Middletown, who said that the two, who loved doing anything outdoors together, had been planning this hiking trip and preparing for months.
“They were doing sometimes 20 miles a day … I know they were having a great time,” he said of the cousin, who the family affectionately referred to as “Whitey” because of his blond hair.
“I know he’s always loved the outdoors for a long, long time. As far as getting ready for this trip, I know they planned it for probably seven or eight months—they were doing a lot of running and they really planned hard for this, to get into shape, to be ready for it.”
The cause of their deaths is still under investigation, however, the manner for both is drowning, said Arnold. The county, he continued, is no stranger to this type of incident.
Arnold said that they find a body nearly once every two years. And it’s hard for rescuers to get back into that particular area, because of the rough terrain and mountain-like hills. There are high, rough waters and cliffs, making hiking a dangerous sport in the area. Many slip and fall, he said, at the any of the five waterfalls located in Carter County.
Dwight is survived by his wife, Dawn, and daughter Diedre.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
John Matarese reports on the cars mechanics hate the most, because they rarely break down.
A woman who quit her job to care for her elderly mother felt at a loss to support herself when the older woman died so she buried her in the yard.