Hiker recounts rescue flight in Great Smoky Mountains

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — We are hearing from the hiker airlifted from the Smokies after suffering an injury.

Mike Reynolds was lifted to safety by a Tennessee Highway Patrol chopper. The maneuver is called a “hoist rescue.”

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel spoke to Reynolds, recounting the experience.

He says he is doing well, and he is in great spirits. Reynolds does have a broken rib, as well as some scratches and bruises, but he is just happy and thankful to be ok.

“I’m lucky to be here,” he said. “I’m a happy camper.”

Reynolds and his wife Elizabeth hiked to Mount LeConte in the Smokies. With about five miles left until the end of the trail, he says his knee gave out and he wasn’t able to go any further.

“I fell about 8 times,” Reynolds said. “The last time I fell, I fell and hit my side on a rock and busted a rib. So I quit walking then.”

A THP pilot and a fire captain from Nashville flew in to rescue him. Reynolds described the operation from his perspective.

“The medic came down with a cable attached to him, he got off. He put me in what’s called a screamer suit because you scream when they lift you up. Buckle you in… it’s like riding a rollercoaster just straight up,” he said. “It was amazing how coordinated they were. They did a great job.”

And that’s the message he and his wife are hoping to get across – one of gratitude to the officials who came to his rescue.

“I am so very, very appreciative. They are just miracle workers, they were fabulous,” his wife, Elizabeth, said.

“They are tremendous. The National Park Service is tremendous, the Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter people were great,” said Reynolds.

We’ve also heard from the THP helicopter pilot who helped rescue Mike Reynolds. Lieutenant Brad Lund described the rescue flight.

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