Cherokee, NC — The search for a missing college student ended tragically on Friday when authorities found 23-year-old Bryce Evans’ body in a remote area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville student was on his way to Charlotte to finish up a summer internship. That’s the last time anyone saw him before he went missing. He had been missing since Sunday, July 31, according to a social media post by his sister Analiese Evans.
His car, a 2017 gray Nissan Altima, was found parked at the Balsam Mountain Trailhead around 7:45 pm on Thursday. Officials closed the road and searched the immediate area with emergency responders from the Cherokee Police and Fire Departments. However, it got dark and the search had to be suspended until the next day.
On Friday, authorities began a comprehensive search of the area.
Emergency responders found Evans about 20 yards off trail, around 1.5 miles from the parking area for the trail, at around 11:15 am
Vanished while traveling from Knoxville to Charlotte
“The last thing they heard was that he was going to the gym, and then drove back up there,” said Sandra Haynes, a family friend. “All things just normal on a Sunday afternoon.”
Evans was staying at his Knoxville apartment for the weekend and was planning to be back at his job at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Monday, his family said.
He was not known to lose touch with his family.
“It’s just so out of character and surprising. I guess everybody says that,” Haynes said. “We were just really shocked. I’ve known Bryce since he was 3 years old. Hes a great kid, very conscientious. He was in the reserves. Very responsible.”
The family had been working with the Knoxville Police Department Investigators, driving through parks across North Carolina and searching trail heads for anyplace where they might find his car. His phone was last pinged in Cherokee, North Carolina.
“We feel like if we find his car, then we find Bryce,” Haynes had said towards the beginning of the search. His car was found Friday, and the search continued around that area until he was found – sadly, deceased.
“It’s the unimaginable,” Haynes said. “They are so focused on uncovering every single lead, and taking the time not to miss one opportunity to get people looking and to get people to help.”
Each person in Evans’ life is shocked by his disappearance, Haynes said.
There is one clue from Evans’ life that could lead somewhere, she said. He loves hiking, which she believes could have led him to Cherokee.
“There’s nothing to lead me, his family, or friends to believe anything other than that something has happened to him,” Haynes said.
Analiese Evans asked for prayers on a viral Facebook post, where she shared her hope that he might be found.
“Bryce is an Eagle Scout and a member of the TN National Guard,” wrote Analiese Evans. “We know the training he received from both will help him in this remote area.”
Anyone with information about what may have happened to Evans is encouraged to contact the Cherokee Police Department at 828-359-6600 or the Knoxville Police Department at 865-215-7450.