Family of missing North Carolina hiker thanks search crews for efforts

HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. — One day after finding the body of a missing Asheville man, who was disappeared in the North Carolina mountains, his family is thanking search and rescue crews and trying to cope with their loss.

Chad Seger was lost in the Shining Rock Wilderness area for four days. Crews found his body on Tuesday in an off trail area and found the gear they believe he had with him nearby.

At this point, they have not determined a cause of death.

His wife and sisters returned to the scene to thank the first responders.

They said while it is not the outcome they wanted, they are grateful for closure. Seger’s wife Lori said her husband struggled with mental health issues and she wants others to know there is help out there.

“Mental health is as important as physical health,” Lori Seger said. “Help should be sought sooner rather than later. But also never too late to get help.”

Seger, 27, had been missing since Monday, Oct. 12, when he spoke briefly with a family member by telephone. Later that same evening, an incomplete 911 call came into Haywood County dispatch, according to WLOS. It apparently could not be completed because of weak signal strength, authorities said.

Seger’s family reported him missing Friday, Oct. 16.

More than 100 people had combed through the Pisgah National Forest for days searching for Seger.

Officials said Seger’s car had been found at the entrance of a popular hiking trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway after he was reported missing on Friday.

Seger was familiar with the area, was in good physical health and may have had hiking or camping gear with him, emergency management spokeswoman Allison Richmond said on Monday.

Earlier this week, a friend and fellow Marine Corps veteran reached out to the community with a message.

“We consider each other family and when stuff like this kind of happens like a brother or sister in arms goes missing or is hurting or something, as a veteran community, we should obviously come together and help them through whatever is going on,” friend Charles Jungnick said.

A group of more than 120 people, including K-9 units and the North Carolina Highway Patrol’s helicopter, spent Sunday searching for Seger.

Rescuers had been worried about the recent cold nights. Haywood County Emergency Services said tourism around leaf season and the uptick since the start of the pandemic had hindered their search efforts.

“It’s the busiest time of year, obviously, with leaf season tourism being high and with COVID, everyone’s trying to be out and about and trying to find something that they can do, it just hinders our efforts, unfortunately," Richmond said.

“I know if you’re out and seen posters anywhere on these trails we’ve put them up all over the Parkway -- if you see this please come home,” Seger’s twin sister pleaded on Monday.

Seger’s wife also had a message for those who’ve been sending their support.

“A lot of people have reached out with their prayers and their words of encouragement -- we really appreciate it and just want people to keep praying and keep sending their thoughts our way,” she said.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.