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Body of missing teenager found in Nantahala National Forest

The search for missing 17-year-old Alec Lansing came to a tragic end when searchers found the teen’s body in Nantahala National Forest Nov. 22, not far from the campsite where he left his group. 

An autopsy revealed that Lansing had a broken hip and had died of hypothermia. Because moss from a nearby tree leaning over a small stream was also found on his body, investigators believe he scaled the tree, fell into the shallow stream and broke his hip, which rendered him immobile. 

“We really hate it for the family,” said Maj. Shannon Queen of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. “There was a lot of hope from the family that he had got out of there and a lot of hope on every rescuer’s part that he had got out of there. It’s hard to see a loss in the family.”

Alec was his mother’s only child following the 2012 death of his older brother, Brennan, who at 27 “died peacefully in his sleep,” according to an obituary posted on  Brennan and Alec were apparently quite close.

“Brennan loved spending time with his family and was a mentor, inspiration and role model to his younger brother, with whom he spent a great deal of time,” the obituary reads.  

Lansing walked away from a counselor in the wilderness therapy group he was with on the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 10 near a U.S. Forest Service road called Round Mountain Road, which is off of Heady Mountain Church Road. Since then, a force of law enforcement agencies, volunteer rescue crews and emergency responders had scoured the forest, from both ground and air, looking for Alec. 

“Hundreds and hundreds I would be safe to say,” Queen said of the number of searchers. “I don’t know the total number.”

On Nov. 22 alone, Queen said 80 to 100 people came out to help. 

Queen couldn’t say how far away from the campsite Lansing’s body was found — “If you’ve ever been hiking in the woods, it’s hard to say” — though he said it was in the same general area as the camp. 

“Exposure to the elements has been a worry the entire time,” Queen said in an earlier interview with The Smoky Mountain News. 

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