KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee National Guard flight crew rescued a hiker from the Appalachian Trail in the early morning hours of April 5.
Just after midnight, the Tennessee Military Department and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency were notified that a 27-year-old hiker needed rescue from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Military. The hiker was in an area near the Silers Bald Shelter, located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and around five miles west of Clingmans Dome.
The crew of Tennessee National Guardsmen from the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Knoxville launched to rescue the hiker in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, the release states. The crew departed shortly after 2 a.m. and reached the hiker around 30 minutes later.
The rescue crew searched for the hiker in the darkness as park rangers radioed them location coordinates and marked the pick-up site with a fire and strobe light. This was complicated by thick cloud cover and darkness that made the victim hard to find. The release says the helicopter shifted locations, lowered their search altitude and continued searching as park rangers continued to radio directions from the ground.
After a few minutes, the crew spotted the strobe light and fire. By 3 a.m., a flight paramedic was on the ground to do a medical assessment of the hiker and prepare them for transportation, according to the release. The hiker was taken to UT Medical Center in Knoxville, where the helicopter landed around 3:30 a.m.
The Tennessee Army National Guard flight crew consisted of two pilots, Capt. Hulon Holmes and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Harold Ridings, crew chief Sgt. Gabriel Weston, and two flight paramedics, Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani and Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta.