D.C. Girl Missing After School Hiking Trip Found Alive

A 16-year-old girl from Washington, D.C., has been found alive after she went missing six days earlier in the mountains of Tennessee during a group hike with her school. 

Ava Zechiel was found just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Reece. 

Zechiel was hiking in Cherokee National Forest in northeast Tennessee when she became separated from other students from her boarding school around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, according to her father, Howard Zechiel. 

The local sheriff's office, with help from the FBI, searched for Zechiel by land and air. Volunteer search crews also helped.

"The search and rescue team found our girl today in the woods," the teenager's mother, Erin Zechiel, posted to a Facebook page called "Help Us Find Ava Zechiel." "She is healthy and [on] her way to us right now." 

"You can't imagine my joy," Zechiel's mother continued.

The county sheriff thanked the team that helped locate Zechiel. 

"We just want to thank every person that made a call to assist, assisted in this search in anyway," Reece said in a statement. "This operation is a true example of utilizing resources, organization of task and deployment of those resources."

Zechiel's father declined to comment to The Washington Post on the circumstances of her daughter's disappearance, but a staff member at her school told the paper the teenager had run away after refusing to hike any farther. 

The terrain in the national forest is rugged and dangerous in parts, an investigator told NBC affiliate WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Zechiel is a student at Freedom Mountain Academy, a wilderness-oriented boarding school for teenagers, the TV station reported.

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