A Forsyth County man was found alive in Union County Sunday after he had been missing for eight days, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Stacie Miller confirmed.
FCSO previously issued a Be on the Lookout, or BOLO, alert for Harold "Kirk" Wintersteen on Saturday, March 25.
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“He was found off [of] Cooper Creek Road by some bikers who heard him calling. He has a broken leg and is recovering in the hospital. Praise God and blessings to everyone who prayed and searched for him!,” stated an April 2 post from Kristen Gailey Stevens, a friend who started a Facebook group to help find him.
The Cooper Creek Road area where Wintersteen was found was north of Two Wheels of Suches, a business that provides lodging and hosts events for motorcyclists.
“When we couldn't find him in any of the areas we thought would be likely, we decided to get more involvement,” Stevens said. “That is when I made the Facebook page and shared it on all of the local motorcycle club Facebook pages.”
Wintersteen was last seen on March 25 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. during an event at the lodging site. He was reportedly leaving the event and returning to his home in Forsyth County on his black Suzuki motorcycle.
Stevens said that another friend of hers, Les Dobbins, was at Two Wheels of Suches on Sunday. Dobbins saw a group of bikers and told them about Wintersteen, handing them a flier.
The bikers asked whether there was a Facebook page about the search for Wintersteen, and after sharing the page, they jumped on their bikes to find him, Stevens said.
Two dual sport riders who didn’t know Wintersteen was missing, Jeff Alexander and Mike McCown, came across his bike on Burnett Creek Road. When they stopped their motorcycles to help, they heard him yelling, said a friend of Wintersteen’s, Paul Rocker.
Alexander said that Wintersteen’s motorcycle was lying in a mud puddle at the end of a dirt road where it’d be hard to spot.
After taking a cursory look around to see if they could spot the bike’s owner walking, they returned to it and stood it up.
While they carried on a conversation, he and McCown heard Wintersteen yelling. They followed the yells to a creek down a hill.
“He broke his leg and drug himself down to the creek,” Alexander said. “Where he was, you'd never see him. “He said he’d been down there for a week, and we had a hard time believing that, but he really had [been].”
Over the course of that week, Wintersteen had stayed close to the creek, drinking water when he was thirsty, McCown told DCN.
McCown stayed with the injured man, and Alexander called 911, later leading the rescue personnel to Wintersteen.
Rocker was there when Wintersteen was brought out of the woods and said he was able to confirm it was him and share the good news with his friends and family.
During a phone interview, Jake King, the son of Wintersteen’s girlfriend, marveled how “strangers that didn’t even know” Wintersteen were the ones who ended up finding him.
“I’d like to say thank you to everyone involved,” King said. “Their efforts were [very] involved, and I was touched by how many people were concerned for Kirk and his life.”
Alexander added that he and McCown were “just happy to help find him.”
“We do a lot of riding out there, and we just happened to go that way that day,” McCown said.
Wintersteen is a staple of Forsyth County government meetings, where he often gives his thoughts on matters before the board.
In a previous Facebook post, District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson commented on his regular participation during public meetings.
“If you've ever attended or watched county meetings or participated in public engagement events with the county, you've probably met him or seen him and know what a great person he is and how much he cares about our community,” Semanson said.
Note: Kelly Whitmire with Forsyth County News gathered background information about Wintersteen. FCN is a sibling publication of DCN.