NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee Army National Guard medical flight crew evacuated a hiker suffering a life-threatening illness in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area.
At about noon July 19, the Tennessee Military Department and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency were notified that a hiker requiring immediate medical care needed to be evacuated from the LeConte Lodge on Mount LeConte, near Gatlinburg.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Tennessee National Guard’s Detachment 1, Company C, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, based in Knoxville, launched at approximately 12:45 p.m.
The flight crew included Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Backus, pilot in command; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trailson Moore, pilot; Sgt. Daniel Mills, crew chief; Col. Robert Ross, flight surgeon; and flight paramedics Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta and Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani.
At 1:03 p.m., the aircraft arrived at Mount LeConte, but cloud cover on the mountain prevented the aircraft from reaching the LeConte Lodge. Rescuers on the ground transported the hiker down the Alum Cave trail to get below the cloud layer so the aircraft could pick up the hiker. Within 10 minutes, the aircraft made visual contact with the rescuers and the flight crew began rescue hoist operations.
Banta was lowered by hoist, assessed the hiker and prepared them both to be lifted into the helicopter. However, clouds began to envelop the site and the aircraft had to depart. After seven minutes, there was a break in the cloud cover and the aircraft returned to hoist Banta and the hiker into the helicopter.
The flight crew continued medical aid during the 12-minute flight to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.