Eddie Noonkester began a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on Friday.

Hiker’s body discovered in Dawson County, authorities say

After four days of searching, authorities have located the body of a missing hiker who disappeared along the Appalachian Trail in Dawson County.

More than 130 first responders and volunteers scoured Amicolola Falls State Park on Wednesday as they searched for Eddie Noonkester. 

A search party led by Gilmore County search and rescue looked over a map to determine where they needed to be to accomplish their search pattern.
Photo: Ben Hendren

Searchers discovered his body Wednesday afternoon near a creek about a mile from the Hike Inn Trail, Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson said at a news conference, according to Channel 2 Action News.

RELATED: Authorities searching for missing North Georgia hiker on Appalachian Trail

The hiker’s brother, Wesley Noonkester, spoke at the news conference, while trying to hold back tears.

“There were so many people out here in the cold and rain who put their lives in jeopardy to find my brother,” he said. “I just know tonight when I lay down I know my brother is in a better place.”

Eddie Noonkester began his thru-hike on Friday, Dawson County authorities said previously. County, state and federal officials began their search for the missing hiker on Sunday after one of his friends told authorities that Noonkester became disoriented and may have suffered a medical emergency.

Dawson County K-9 handler Amy Crane guides a police dog in search of a missing hiker. Authorities said the poor weather conditions have made the search difficult.
Photo: Ben Hendren

As the search continued, experienced hikers were also asked to volunteer with the rescue efforts. 

On Tuesday, Thompson said the large search area, wet weather and rough terrain posed challenges for searchers looking for Noonkester. 

“When we briefed our searchers this morning, we said, ‘Look, the big concern today is slips, trips and falls; losing your footing out there with these wet conditions that we currently have and bouts of heavy downpours. The fog on the mountain will move in at times and you’ll have zero visibility,’” Thompson said.

Investigators were able to get a ping from Noonkester’s cellphone, which helped them narrow the search to Dawson County rather than the surrounding National Forest property. 

His cause of death has not been determined, and the GBI will perform his autopsy, Thompson said.

A rescue team member was emotional after finding the hiker's body near a creek.
Photo: Ben Hendron

“On what’s the actual cause of death or anything, I’d be unable to speak on that,” he said. “He’s since been turned over to the GBI and transported to the state crime lab.”

No foul play is suspected.

In other news: 

23-year-old Anitra Gunn vanished Friday in a neighborhood north of the city of Fort Valley.

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