COLUMBIA, SC — Search crews have rescued a father and his two children missing for at least two days in the expansive Congaree National Park.
J.R. Kimbler, his 10-year-old son Dakota, and his 6-year-old daughter Jade, who haven't been heard from since Saturday night, were seen by search and rescue teams early Tuesday, followed by verbal contact with them.
Search teams told National Park Service that the family was approximately two miles off a trail inside the Congaree National Park, and the teams safely retrieved the three from the off-trail location just before 8 a.m.
Officials report the three appear well, but are being transported to an area hospital for observation.
Rescue teams have been searching for more than two days after the father and two children went on a hiking excursion inside the 27,000-acre park.
The children's mother, Tammy Ballard — who doesn't live with Kimbler — said she'd taken her children to Kimbler on Saturday so they could spend the day with him. Around 8:30 Saturday night, she received a message from one of Kimbler's friends saying that Kimbler had texted him saying that he was lost and needed help.
Ballard said she then called law enforcement and drove to the park. She says Kimbler had never been to the park before.
There was no indication Kimbler took any camping gear or other items for an overnight stay. The taxi driver left his cigarettes in his cab that was still parked near the visitor's center Monday and his daughter's inhaler and other medicine were in the hotel room where he lived, his family said.
"I think that they just came intending on staying a couple of hours and then they got lost, because he had left his cigarettes and lighter in his cab and he's a heavy smoker," Ballard said. "That makes me think he wasn't planning on being away from the car for very long."