Thursday, January 9, 2014

Three Hikers Rescued in Great Smoky Mountains

Although this story was widely covered in the local press, the following account from the NPS Morning Report provides several more details on the incident in which three hikers had to be rescued after suffering from various stages of hypothermia, while attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies:

On the evening of January 2nd, park dispatch began receiving reports of a three person hiking party in distress somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. The cell phone signal indicated that the group was between Mollies Shelter and Fontana Lake, approximately five to six miles from the nearest trailhead.

At the time, the park was experiencing heavy snowfall and single digit temperatures associated with a large storm affecting much of the East Coast.

Cell phone contact was established with the three men from South Carolina, who ranged in age from 21 to 32 years old. The three men indicated that they were ill prepared for the weather conditions, that they had no shelter, and that they were cold, wet, suffering from hypothermia and unable to move. Through a series of broken phone calls, they stated that one member of the group was shivering and had gone to sleep and could not be awakened and they were burning their clothes in an attempt to provide warmth.

Rangers Brad Griest, Kent Looney, and ranger/medic Phil Basak hiked throughout the night to locate the group. During the hike, the rangers experienced wind chill temperatures between -10 and -15 degrees. Due to the high winds and blowing snow, it was difficult at times for the rangers to locate the trail.

Early the following morning, rangers found the three men, all of them suffering from various stages of hypothermia and possible frostbite. While the rangers provided medical aid and attempted to re-warm them, a Blackhawk helicopter from the North Carolina National Guard with hoisting capabilities responded.

By early afternoon, all three men had been safely hoisted aboard and flown to Mission (Memorial) Hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, for treatment. The rangers hiked back out with assistance from a second rescue team utilizing UTVs on portions of the trail.

The three hikers had planned to hike across the Appalachian Trail on a ten-day backpacking trip. Intending to stay in shelters, they didn't bring a tent. They also didn’t bring proper clothing that was warm enough for the extreme cold temperatures they would encounter.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Royal Navy Rescue?

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Yes, the Royal Navy regularly conducts SARs in the Smokies!

Actually it was the only file photo I could use for this story...

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the men that put their lives on the line for these unprepared knuckleheads!

South Union Mills said...

What volunteer SAR squads assist the park with rescues, etc? I would assume Blount and Sevier Counties Rescue Squad but are there any others?

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

SUM - I don't know the answer to that question - I'm sure there are several on the NC side as well??

South Union Mills said...

Ok, thanks. I wasn't sure...I live in Middle TN but was interested in helping with larger responses. I have a background in Law Enforcement and K9 as well as hiking, so was interested in seeing what was out there. I just returned from snow shoeing in the Rocky Mtn National Park and all of the counties out there have SAR teams that assist NPS.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

SUM - you ought to contact the park to see who they rely on outside of the NPS. Also, I do know that the National Guard has helped out with SAR's in the past, so that may be an option as well.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

Largest search ever in the park: In June & July, 1967, as many as 1500 per day searched for 6 year old Dennis Martin, around the Spence Field area. He was never found.