Backcountry hiker hoisted out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with THP helicopter

Local News

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter was used to help rescue a hiker on Friday in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hiker, Mike Reynolds, 66, of Maryville, was injured in the backcountry of the park. The Tennessee Highway Patrol said a THP pilot and a fire captain from Nashville flew to the Smokies to help rangers get the hiker out on Friday using a “hoist rescue.”

Reynolds fell on Bull Head Trail on Friday afternoon approximately 2 miles below the summit of Mount Le Conte, a park spokesperson said.  He suffered a knee injury along with pain in his ribs and lacerations on his arm and face, according to the Park Service.

Due to the knee injury, he was not able to hike the remaining 5 miles to the trailhead on Cherokee Orchard Road.  A rescue operation with a wheeled litter would have been extremely challenging due to numerous large, downed trees along the trail.  In order to have access for the wheeled litter, a sawyer crew would have been necessary to clear the trail, the spokesperson said.

“Fortunately, the Tennessee Highway Patrol was available to carry out the rescue though a hoist operation.  Two Park Rangers met the injured party on-site and assisted with the operation from the ground<‘ the spokesperson said.

Park Rangers then carried Reynolds backpack and personal items off the trail for him. 

The Tennessee Highway Patrol flew Reynolds to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevierville where he departed with his wife in a private vehicle. 

(This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.)

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