A 13-year-old girl reported missing from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is believed to be with a 15-year-old Tennessee boy, officials say.
Erica Gamerdinger went missing Monday from the Wilderness Road Campground at the park, which borders Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Rangers said Wednesday they believe she is with Keith Griffith, a 15-year-old from Speedwell, Tennessee.
The mother of Erica fears they may be traveling toward Colorado or Alaska. Erica and her family are from Edgewood, Iowa, and were in Cumberland Gap on vacation.
The relationship between Erica and Keith has not been publicly disclosed.
Before Erica went missing, she sent a text message with the letters “SOS” with a map of her location, Jen Gamerdinger told WVLT.
Erica’s aunt, Christina Marie Johari, said Wednesday night family members believe “there is imminent danger” to Erica and Keith’s lives.
“Law enforcement has spent considerable time, effort and expense in searching for them,” Johari said in a Facebook post. “Heartbroken family members are searching the area and every lead that becomes available. Other extended family members are exhausting all avenues of connecting, researching and sharing information to find these young teens.”
Another one of Erica’s aunts, Julie Gamerdinger-Rottinghaus, said authorities “are searching from sun up till after dark” for the teenagers.
Officials say Erica is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 100 pounds and has blonde hair. She was last seen wearing a dark blue floral tank top with jean shorts.
“She is a loving daughter and ‘second mother’ to her many siblings, always a great helper to her two sets of elderly grandparents, an exceptional helper with her love for farming, a beautiful and intelligent young lady that is dearly missed by her extended families,” one woman said in a Facebook post.
Keith is 5 feet, 11 inches, 160 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes, officials say. He was last seen wearing black and gray shorts and a gray or blue T-shirt.
He also has an undisclosed medical condition and is believed to be without his medication. According to a missing person’s flyer, he was riding a blue and white Yamaha dirt bike.
If you have seen the girl or have any information of her whereabouts, contact the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office at 423-626-1911, ext. 1, or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-TBI-FIND.