North Carolina rescue crews used a helicopter Friday to extract three South Carolina hikers who park rangers say are suffering from severe hypothermia.
The North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART) airlifted the three stranded South Carolina hikers from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that rangers were able to find the three men early Friday morning along the Appalachian Trail on the park’s southern ridges. The hikers were suffering from hypothermia and possible frostbite, according to park supervisory ranger Kent Cave.
Cave identified the men as Shawn Hood, Steven White and Jonathan Dobbins, all from Gaffney. The men, who range in age from 21 to 32, had left from the Fontana Dam area of the park Thursday. But the trio soon used their cell phones to call for help after realizing they were unprepared for the cold winter weather that hit the mountains that evening.
Rangers said about 4-5 inches of snow was on the ground when they found the hikers about 5 miles from the trailhead. There were also two-foot drifts in some area and a wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit, Cave said. He said the three men were unprepared for the weather, as they were wearing cotton clothing which offered no warmth when it became wet.
NCHART is a joint N.C. National Guard and Highway Patrol team used in particularly risky rescue situations.