Dangerous conditions led to injured AT hikers and treacherous terrain for rescuers

More than 100 first responders save three injured hikers from icy Appalachian Trail

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.

Two hikers in Rockbridge County were airlifted to safety.

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.

“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.

At approximately 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 20, 2021 Roanoke County Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to the...

Posted by Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department on Saturday, February 20, 2021

More pictures from today’s trail rescue call.

Posted by Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department on Saturday, February 20, 2021

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