BAKERSVILLE, N.C. – A young brother and sister missing overnight in rugged western North Carolina mountains were found Thursday about a mile from where they had disappeared.
Mitchell County Sheriff Ken Fox said Alexander Lee Suddeath, 6, and his sister, Heidi Elizabeth Suddeath, 4, of Kingsport, Tenn., were found near the Roan Mountain Recreation Area in national forest lands near the Tennessee border. Both are safe, Fox told the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Fox said searchers first found the boys' shoes, then the children about a mile from where the brother and sister last were seen Wednesday afternoon on a hike with their parents.
They were found on the Tennessee side of the mountain that straddles the state line.
The Mitchell County Sheriff's Office issued an Amber Alert early Thursday morning to inform the public of the search, calling it "a child abduction."
"The parents lost sight of them for just a minute," said sheriff's office dispatcher Jim English. "There's a bunch of walking trails including the Appalachian Trail and the kids started going down a trail in front of the parents."
Other people in the area at the time didn't see anything happen, he said.
The statement said the children's parents were returning to a parking lot at Roan Mountain on Wednesday afternoon when they lost sight of the children. The parents stayed at the scene of the search.
Terry Seyden, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service that controls thousands of acres of mountain land including that around Roan Mountain, said the terrain is above 5,000 feet elevation.
"It's a high mountain area with a combination of spruce fir forest, rhododendron thickets and mountain meadows," Seyden said. "It's fairly warm this time of year."
The North Carolina Highway Patrol conducted a search of the area by helicopter Wednesday night but found no sign of the children, said Highway Patrol Captain Everett Clendenin.