ROANOKE, Va. – First responders raced to the rescue after three hikers were injured and stranded while hiking the Appalachian Trail over the weekend.
They had to deal with icy, treacherous terrain and freezing temperatures.
Rockbridge County Fire & Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey said it would have been too difficult to carry them out on foot.
“It’s completely iced over on the top of the mountain there with the cold temperatures and the precipitation we’ve that received recently,” said Ramsey.
Saturday’s rescue took 10 hours. Sunday’s lasted 11, with 50 to 60 responders worked nonstop during each rescue.
Video of the Hoisting Operation with Med Flight 1 on the AT trail on 2/20/21 pic.twitter.com/T698QA1Drs— Bedford County SOC (@BCoFRSOC) February 22, 2021
Video of second hoisting operation of the weekend on AT trail in Rockbridge on 2/21/21 pic.twitter.com/m2D2jOv1MW— Bedford County SOC (@BCoFRSOC) February 22, 2021
“We were watching out for them as well for hypothermia and things like that,” said Ramsey. “Essentially, they put themselves in harm’s way to rescue these folks.”
In Roanoke County, another hiker was rescued from the Sawtooth Trail on Saturday after falling 200 to 300 feet.
Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Capt. Michael Zaronsky said helicopters and an ATV couldn’t access the trail, so crews had to carry him out on a stretcher. That rescue took two hours and 17 first responders, lugging thermal blankets, ropes, and more.
“You figure you have a 180-pound patient and you’re trying to walk them out and you’ve got unstable conditions,” said Zaronsky. “You want to switch off a lot so you’re not having to constantly carry. So you have six people constantly carry him that way you can rotate them out and keep people fresh.”
The freezing temperatures were not only dangerous for the hikers, but also posed a hypothermia risk for the rescuers.