On the evening of Tuesday, May 24, search dog teams called in by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rangers found the body believed to be that of 58-year-old David Harrington of Largo, Fla., whose SUV had been parked for nearly a week in a pullout along Newfound Gap Road. The pullout is .6 miles from the Smokemont Campground, but serves no trailheads, so vehicles would not normally be there overnight. Rangers initiated a search on Monday for Harrington, while at the same time, continuing the search for Christopher Cessna, the missing man from Cary, N.C.
Rangers ran checks on Harrington’s car’s license plate several times over the past week, but there were no “wants” posted by any law enforcement agency seeking the vehicle and no suspicious signs were observed about the vehicle. On Monday night Rangers were able to locate family members and learned that Harrington had been missing.
A search dog from the North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association located the body in a steep, thickly wooded location about 250 yards from the vehicle. National Park Service investigators found a handgun at the scene and no evidence of foul play. The Swain County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the cause of death to be from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The body has been transferred to Chapel Hill for a dental records evaluation to confirm identification.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Chief Ranger Clayton Jordan said, “The role of the search dogs and their volunteer handlers was key to locating this subject so quickly and safely. In the type of steep terrain and dense brush in the search area it could have taken numerous ground searchers an extended period to complete this mission.”