GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — A group of strangers in high places may have helped save a life on Mt. LeConte earlier this week after a hiker developed a life-threatening illness.
“We did everything we could because that’s what you do when someone needs help,” said hiker Chris Kniseley, who along with friends Matt Reed, Pat Satterfield, Hank Bowman and Sean Mehaffey say they’d do it again “in a heartbeat.”
The friends were at LeConte Lodge on Monday, July 18, when they said an alert came in that a hiker had developed a life-threatening illness and had “passed out” on Trillium Gap Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Our group was contacted by the staff at LeConte to help assist with the recovery of the young woman from the Trillium Gap Trail,” Kniselely said by email. “She had passed out and cold rain made the situation worse.”
A stretcher had been rolled down the mountain to her, but it was very difficult to pull her back up with the limited number of staff on the mountain that day, Kniseley said. The stretcher needed to be brought 1.5 miles back up the trail to the lodge and it was already 6:30 p.m.
Staff approached the group and asked if they could help with the recovery effort. Of course, the men agreed, Within minutes the group was headed down the trail.
“We swapped out the staff with our 5 bodies and the staff that had been pulling worked to keep the young woman awake while we pulled as fast as we could up the trail,” Kniseley said. “We finally got her to the lodge after about an hour of pulling.”
Kniseley said before the group headed down the mountain the next morning, they learned the woman’s condition has worsened overnight and hoped she could get off the mountain as soon as possible.
The men who helped her do not know who she is, or where she is from. The condition of the hiker and her identity has not been released.
“Her and her family have been in our thoughts,” Kniseley said on Thursday. The group are hoping to learn more about her identity and condition.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Tennessee National Guard in Knoxville airlifted the hiker off the mountain around noon Tuesday. The crew delivered the patient to UT Health Medical Center within 12 minutes of leaving the mountain.
“The staff at LeConte did all they could for this young lady,” Kniseley said. “Hoping and praying she’s doing better.”