This morning's NPS Digest provided more details on the rescue of Crystal Lynn Ham, the woman from South Carolina that went missing for three days on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There's still no information on how she became lost or why she wasn't able to walk out on her own.
Crystal Lynn Ham, 25, of Elgin, South Carolina, was located by search crews Monday evening after an extensive three day search. She is currently recovering in a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Ham was hypothermic, but conscious and able to confirm her identity when searchers located her about a mile from where her vehicle had been parked on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Crystal had been last seen by her father at his office on the morning of Tuesday, October 26th. Her vehicle was seen parked at Bullhead Mountain Overlook near Milepost 234 on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Wednesday morning. As this overlook provides parking for an area where visitors frequently hike and camp overnight, the vehicle’s registration was not immediately checked. Upon running the registration of the vehicle on Saturday morning, rangers discovered that the owner, Ham, was listed as missing by her family.
Over the next three days, searchers and organizers from multiple cooperating agencies searched an area with a radius of about a mile and a quarter from the point where here vehicle was found. The area was divided into segments, and those segments were prioritized and searched. Seven teams searched assigned areas on November 1st, some going out on multiple missions during the day as they searched the difficult terrain. That afternoon, one of the teams volunteered to search one last segment of the area before dark – and found Ham just after 6 p.m., alive but suffering from hypothermia, dehydration and exposure. The searchers began warming her, and her condition started to improve.
Ham was found on Stone Mountain State Park land, approximately one mile downhill from where she had parked on the parkway and in an area of steep terrain and tall trees, with the light quickly fading. A paramedic was able to hike in to her location, arriving just before 10 p.m. It was determined that she was stable enough to stay the night.
Due to the difficulty and risk associated with a helicopter rescue in steep terrain, a plan was developed to bring Ham out of the area by helicopter at first light. Thirteen searchers and rescuers spent the night with Ham, keeping her warm and monitoring her condition. A helicopter from the North Carolina National Guard hoisted her out of the ravine she was in around 8:30 a.m. along with one of the paramedics who had been treating her. She was then flown to a nearby landing zone near the Bluffs Lodge on Blue Ridge Parkway, where she was assessed by an ambulance crew before being transferred to a medical helicopter to be flown to Winston-Salem.
Participants in the search included personnel from North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Highway Patrol, Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Laurel Springs, Cherry Lane, Glade Creek, Alleghany County Search and Rescue, Alleghany County Sheriff’s Department, Kershaw County, North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association, and North Carolina Project Saver Specialized Team.