HAPPY VALLEY, Tenn. — Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers and Blount Special Operations Response Team (BSORT) divers from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office recovered a drowning victim near Abrams Falls on Friday, August 27 around 9:30 p.m. The victim was identified as Stephen Musser, age 73, of Roswell, Georgia.
At 2:15 p.m., park rangers received a report that Musser was observed swimming near Abrams Falls in a pool approximately 100 feet across and up to 30 feet deep. He was caught up in the current at the base of the falls and unable to resurface.
Rangers searched the area by ground around the falls and downstream of the falls with air support from the Army National Guard. Later that evening, BSORT divers located Musser near the base of the falls entrapped by underwater debris.
Park rangers were assisted by 25 emergency responders from BSORT, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, BUSAR Search and Rescue Team, Army National Guard, and Townsend Area Fire Department. Musser was transported to Blount Memorial Hospital.
In park history, there have been 60 drownings in park streams, including 10 near Abrams Falls. Park officials caution that, while swimming in the park is not prohibited, it does pose risks beyond those encountered in lakes or pools.
According to GSMNP rangers, park streams often have strong, unexpected currents that can hold a swimmer under water, and the stream beds are littered with rocks and sunken logs that can snag or entrap a swimmer. Rangers urge swimmers and tubers to be extremely careful when recreating in park streams.
For more information about water safety in the park, you can visit the park's website here.