Crews rescue Smokies hikers stranded in snow storm

Crews rescue Smokies hikers stranded in snow storm

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GATLINBURG (WATE) - Three hikers stranded in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were rescued by helicopter Friday afternoon.

The National Park Service says the trio made a distress call Thursday night, reporting they were cold, wet and needing rescue. The men were without shelter and unable to walk as a storm system dumped snow on the mountains.

Rangers brought them warm clothes and a tent and began treating them for hypothermia and possible frostbite. All three were very weak and could not walk.

The North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART) airlifted the three hikers and took them to Asheville's Mission Hospital .

The three men, identified as Shawn Hood, Steven White and Jonathan Dobbins, ranging in age from 21 to 32 years of age, came to the park from Gaffney, South Carolina. They were found about five miles from the nearest trail head.

According to a park service release, the hikers had set out from Fontana Dam on Thursday for a 10 day backpacking trip. Conditions were changing through the day and by nightfall, temperatures had fallen into single-digits.

With gusts of 35 miles per hour factored in, the hikers were said to be experiencing wind chills near twenty degrees below zero. The winds had also blown snow drifts up to two feet.

Rangers reported rescue efforts had been hampered by the conditions and the remote location.

"Winter hiking in the Smokies can be very dangerous without taking the proper precautions," said Chief Ranger Clay Jordan.  "The park is grateful for the exemplary work of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team in bringing this operation to a successful conclusion."

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