North Carolina

Battling fog, Black Hawk helicopter crew rescues hiker hurt on Grandfather Mountain

Battling fog, a North Carolina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter crew on Wednesday airlifted an injured hiker from a trail on Grandfather Mountain, one of the tallest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Salisbury-based UH-60 crew also included three specially trained rescuers from the Charlotte Fire Department, according to a news release by the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

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Battling fog, a North Carolina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter crew on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, airlifted an injured hiker off a trail on Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Three Charlotte Fire Department rescuers were aboard the helicopter. Eric Hiegl Blue Ridge Conservancy

The hiker broke an ankle and couldn’t get out of woods on the mountain near the Avery-Watauga county line, officials said. Officials have not said how high up the 5,946-foot mountain the hiker was hurt.

Rescuers from Watauga and Avery counties hiked in and treated the man, but it would have taken them more than six hours to carry him off the mountain, according to the NC Department of Public Safety.

So the local rescuers called on the North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team to fly in a crew to airlift the man.

“While avoiding fog rolling over the mountain, the NC HART crew hoisted the injured hiker into the aircraft, flew to a nearby landing area and transferred him to a waiting ambulance for transport to a local hospital,” according to the NC Department of Public Safety news release.

NC Helo-Aquatic rescue teams have saved hundreds of lives since the program began in 2004, NC Public Safety officials said. The NC Emergency Management program pairs civilian rescuers with military and law enforcement aircraft and aircrews on the teams.

“NC HART represents the best of North Carolina, partnering our state’s first responders and aviators to save lives,” NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said in Wednesday’s release. “Today’s rescue required extensive training and skill, and I appreciate the dedication and service of our NC HART members and local rescuers.”

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this article did not list Grandfather Mountain as one of the tallest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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