Hikers airlifted from park
The North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART) airlifted three stranded South Carolina hikers who spent a bitterly cold and wet night on the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The three were taken to Asheville’s Mission Hospital. Responding rangers had stabilized the men in the field with dry clothing, sleeping bags, and shelter. They were treated for hypothermia and possible frostbite. All three were very weak and could not walk. Shawn Hood, Steven White, and Jonathan Dobbins, ages 21 to 32, from Gaffney, South Carolina, had started out from Fontana Dam on January 2 for a ten-day backpacking trip. They used cell phones to report being cold and wet and needing rescue later that night. The men said they were unable to walk and had no shelter. The men were ill-equipped for the single digit temperatures and 35 mile-per-hour winds that created chills near 20 degrees below zero according the National Weather Service. Blowing snow created drifts up to two feet. The men were reported wearing mostly cotton clothing, which provides little or no warmth when wet. “Winter hiking in the Smokies can be very dangerous without taking the proper precautions,” said Chief Ranger Clay Jordan. “The park is grateful for the exemplary work of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team in bringing this operation to a successful conclusion,” Jordan said.