Officials have released their findings in the investigation of the death of Jenny Bennett, an avid local hiker who was found dead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier this year.
Susan J. Bennett, known as Jenny, of Sylva, N.C., was reported missing to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office on June 6, 2015. A frequent hiker in the Smokies, park rangers were notified and her car was located at the Porters Flat Trailhead the following day. Bennett was discovered by park rangers off trail in the Greenbrier area of the park on June 8, deceased and sitting in the creek with her head resting on rocks.
According to a release by Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials, the final autopsy report from the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s Office concludes that Bennett died of environmental hypothermia due to cold exposure from partial submersion in Porter’s Creek. She had bruises on her right hip and elbow consistent with a fall, but did not have any internal or musculoskeletal injuries. A toxic level of the antihistamine diphenhydramine was found in Bennett’s blood and the medical examiner considered it a significant contributing factor in her death that pointed towards an intentional overdose.
Bennett was a beloved member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and often liked to hike off trail in the park. She chronicled her hikes on her blog Endless Streams and Forests. Her last post was made on May 27, 2015. She also authored the book “The Twelve Streams of LeConte.”
The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club has planned a memorial hike for Jenny Bennett on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Participants will gather at the Porters Creek trailhead at 2 p.m., and hike to the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Cabin. At 4 p.m. following the hike, a potluck picnic will be held at the Porter’s Creek Pavilion in Greenbrier with music and time set aside to celebrate Bennett’s life by sharing stories and photos. The event is open to anyone who would like to commemorate her life.
Photo by Ken Thomas (KenThomas.us) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons