Hiker found on Appalachian Trail identified

Hiker's body transported to Roanoke medical examiner for cause of death

BEDFORD, Va. – Authorities have identified the hiker found on the Appalachian Trail as James Allen Nanninga, 70, of Florida.

Late Friday afternoon, investigators with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office spoke with family members in Florida and learned that Nanninga was hiking the trail alone. 

The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office received word from the medical examiner’s office that a cause of death will not be determined until all tests results are in; however, there is no evidence of foul play.  

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office and other agencies have recovered the hiker’s body they were searching for Thursday. Bedford officials tell WSLS a hiker called the Rockbridge Sheriff's Office to say they spotted another hiker along the Appalachian Trail and the person appeared to be dead.

Crews from the Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue, Bedford Fire Department, Big Island Fire Department, Big Island Rescue Squad, Bedford County Sheriff's Office, Virginia Department of Forestry, park rangers, Forest Volunteer Fire Department, and Rockbridge County responded to the scene.
They spent about eight to 10 hours searching for the body. From 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. more than 60 people were searching in the mountains. Authorities believe the hiker lost his footing and fell 20 to 25 feet into the ravine.

“It's pretty steep through that section, too, from Snowden back to Petites Gap. It’s pretty much uphill, but it appeared the victim was traversing back down on incline when he fell,” said Maj. Ricky Gardner with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies say it was quite a distance to navigate through the trail. It took them four hours to carry the body down the mountain. The hiker's identity has not been released.  The body will be sent to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

"It was a major undertaking to achieve what we did. Obviously it took hours to do that. It was a great deal of coordination as well. I want to thank all the other agencies that assisted us with that,” Gardner said.

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office says the last report they have of anyone dying on the Appalachian Trail was in 2014. They found a dead hiker in the Matt Creek shelter.

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