On Saturday, April 26, Park Rangers were notified that a 43-year old man, Jerry Robert Kimbler, of Springdale, South Carolina, and his 2 children, 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter, were lost after venturing down a trail in Congaree National Park near the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Kimbler sent a text message at approximately 9:30 p.m. on April 26 to a friend requesting help. Rangers immediately assembled a team and conducted a hasty search of the nearby trails with local search and rescue partners.
Over 65 trained search and rescue personnel and 15 volunteers from the following agencies have conducted a search of approximately 9,000 acres of the 27,000-acre park area over the last 48 hours.
·Lexington County Emergency Management
·Richland County Sherriff's Department
·Richland County EMS
·Columbia Fire Department
·Lowcounty Incident Management Team
·South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
·National Park Service
Crews have been aided by fixed wing aircraft and helicopters using thermal imaging and night visioning sensing technology. Ground crews have saturated trails by foot, utilized canine tracking teams, and conducted off-trail searches by boat. The search has been difficult due to a winter ice storm that left numerous downed trees obscuring trails along with high waters and dense vegetation.
Rangers do not believe the party is prepared for a backcountry stay. Weather conditions have been mild, but rain and storms are expected later this week. It is unlikely that the party is prepared with water, food, or raingear.The park has been closed to all visitors to aid in rescue efforts until further notice.
The park will provide daily media briefings. For more information, please contact National Park Service Public Information Officers Dana Soehn or Brent Everitt.
Did You Know?
Congaree National Park hosts the Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center. Research Learning Centers function as scientific laboratories and research libraries that enhance learning opportunities within our National Parks.