RALEIGH, N.C. -- A distress call went out in the late afternoon June 14, concerning a hiker who had been injured in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tenn. North Carolina National Guard aviation assets, in conjunction with members of the North Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, or NCHART, were assigned the rescue mission in the rugged terrain of the southern region of the Appalachian Trail. "Everybody worked together to get the survivor out of there," said Capt. Darrell Scoggins, a National Guard helicopter pilot who flew the mission. NCHART is a highly specialized team consisting of North Carolina Army National Guard and North Carolina State Highway Patrol air assets, matched with North Carolina Emergency Management and local emergency services personnel who perform helicopter-based rescues. Hiker Nathan Lipsom, 53 of Cambridge, Mass., was injured when a large tree fell on him, breaking his ankle and causing internal injuries, June 13.
"There were numerous trees down and there had been reports of a tornado in the area the night before," said Scoggins. A ranger on patrol found the hiker, said Molly Schroer, park spokeswoman. Schroer said a National Weather Service crew confirmed that an EF-1 tornado hit the Cosby area during the storm, which caused considerable damage and made it difficult to execute a ground rescue of Lipsom. The rangers were patrolling the area in order to assess storm damage. Park rangers were unable to reach the injured hiker earlier in the afternoon, located on the Low Gap Trail just south of the Appalachian Trail system, due to trail conditions from the downed trees in the area. After a conference call between officials from the NCNG and state Emergency Management, the decision was made to deploy a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, along with two NCHART technicians. "It is a collective effort -- pilots fly, crews check for clearance for the helicopter and HART technicians plan the safest, best approach to extract," Scoggins said. In the early evening hours, the NCHART technicians were able to successfully load Lipsom aboard the helicopter, using a litter, and transport him to the nearest hospital in Asheville, N.C., Mission Hospital. "The canopy is normally thick there and it was difficult to insert," said Scoggins. "We found an area near the survivor and inserted the HART technicians there. They were able to clear an area so we could do a pick up." At approximately 6:45 p.m., Lipsom was taken to Mission Hospital in Asheville to be treated for his injuries. This most recent rescue is the fourth successful mission since last July, of the assets from the North Carolina National Guard and NCHART working together. NCHART also executes missions involving swiftwater/flood rescue, lost persons and urban/wilderness high angle rescues. NCHART trains on a quarterly basis in these areas in order to keep both technicians and air crews proficient.