New safety measures in place on The Dragon's dangerous curves

New safety measures in place on The Dragon's dangerous curves

Posted:
U.S. Highway 129's bends and hairpin turns draw motorcycle riders and adventurous drivers from all over the country. U.S. Highway 129's bends and hairpin turns draw motorcycle riders and adventurous drivers from all over the country.
The Blount County Rescue Squad is stationing one of its rescue trucks on the highway every weekend until October. The Blount County Rescue Squad is stationing one of its rescue trucks on the highway every weekend until October.
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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE)— The Blount County Rescue Squad is stepping up efforts along the stretch of road known as The Dragon.

U.S. Highway 129's bends and hairpin turns draw motorcycle riders and adventurous drivers from all over the country to the mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina.

When riders wipe-out, sometimes with critical injuries, first responders face challenges getting there to help.

"If you wreck on a motorcycle, there's no easy wreck on a motorcycle," said Tammy Eubanks, a Dragon rider from Versailles, Ga.

To deal with the wrecks that happen on The Dragon, the Blount County Rescue Squad is stationing one of its rescue trucks on the highway every weekend until October.

"It's something we've wanted to do for a long time, "said Lt. Laura Osgood, with the Blount County Rescue Squad.

Since May, the all-volunteer squad has been positioned at critical points on The Dragon on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

The rescue squad has been on The Dragon every day during the 4th of July week, considered to the busiest week of the year for motorcyclists.

The organization, which relies solely on public contributions, was able to get enough money and manpower to make this a reality.

The truck has the capability to respond to any medical emergency, including rope rescues.

"We're able to asses a patient, able to get them off an embankment if they've gone off. We're able to treat them and mobilize them, asses them until the medical unit is able to get there," said Osgood.

The rescue squad says having a presence on The Dragon could cut total response times by as much as an hour, which could mean the difference between life and death.

Instead of leaving their station in Maryville, which could take 30 minutes, a responder can be at the scene in about five minutes.

A man recently broke his leg in a motorcycle wreck and was treated right away.

"There is a golden hour of time you want to get to the patient. Treat them and get them to an emergency room within an hour, and they have a much better chance of surviving if you do that," Osgood said.

In 2012, there were four fatalities on The Dragon, but none so far this year. The hope is that it remains this way.

"It takes people like them to put their lives on the line to save our lives," said Kris Plummer, a Dragon rider visiting from Missouri.

The Blount County Rescue Squad is embarking on a $300,000 fundraising campaign to build a public service building on The Dragon.

The building could be used by the rescue squad, Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Blount County Sheriff's Office.

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