The call for help was issued around noon on July 19 to the Tennessee Military Department and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The hiker at the lodge required immediate medical care.
In less than an hour, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Tennessee National Guard’s Detachment 1, Company C, 1-171st Aviation Regiment based in Knoxville was in route. But when the helicopter arrived at 1:03 p.m., cloud cover prevented the aircraft from reaching the LeConte Lodge.
Rescuers on the ground carried the hiker down the Alum Cave Trail to get below the cloud layer so that the aircraft could pick up the hiker.
“Within 10 minutes, the aircraft made visual contact with the rescuers, and the flight crew began rescue hoist operations,” the Tennessee Department of the Military said in a press release.
Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, Flight Paramedic, was lowered by hoist to the hiker, performed a medical assessment and prepared them both to be hoisted into the helicopter.
However, the cloud cover had begun to envelop the pick-up site and the helicopter was forced to leave the scene. A break in the cloud cover came about 7 minutes later. The aircraft returned to the pick-up site and hoisted Banta and the hiker safely into the helicopter.
The medical crew on board continued giving aid to the hiker during the 12-minute flight to UT Medical Center in Knoxville.
The hiker’s condition and identity have not been released.
The flight crew consisted of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Backus, Pilot in Command; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trailson Moore, Pilot; Sgt. Daniel Mills, Crew Chief; Col. Robert Ross, Flight Surgeon; Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, Flight Paramedic; and Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani, Flight Paramedic.