Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue spends 21 hours over the weekend saving two hikers

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 7:20 PM EST
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Rockbridge County spent this past weekend working with other fire and rescue crews to save two different injured hikers on the Appalachian trail.

Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey said crews spent over 10 hours on Saturday and 11 on Sunday working in dangerously icy conditions to rescue the hikers.

“It took longer Saturday and yesterday because our crews had to be extremely careful making their way in just simply because of the conditions, very slick, icy conditions,” Ramsey said.

And it’s those icy conditions that caused the two different hikers to slip and fall on the Appalachian trail this past weekend.

On Saturday, a call came in at around 9 a.m. about a hiker who had slipped on ice and fallen about 150 feet off the side of the mountain in the Bedford County portion of the Appalachian trail. A command post was set up at Snowden boat ramp for the rescue.

“We actually used the boats to transport folks up to make access to the trail to cut off about a mile of hiking, and once we got in we were able to carry the equipment in, package the patient in a stokes basket,” Ramsey explained.

Multiple fire and rescue agencies, including Glasgow Fire Department, Glasgow Rescue Squad, Big Island Volunteer Fire Company, Bedford County Fire and Rescue, Lynchburg Fire Department and Virginia State Police, then cleared a path for a VSP helicopter to drop down it’s personnel and pull the patient up. The patient was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital with cuts, scrapes and bruises and possibly hypothermia.

“Yesterday’s call came in a little later, around 1 in the afternoon, and a command post was established right at the Rockbridge-Amherst line at 501 on the overlook,” Ramsey said.

He said Sunday’s hiker fell about 200 feet off a cliff and into rocks after walking on an icy part of the trail, and another helicopter was used to help rescue him and take him to Rockbridge Community Hospital.

“This weekend’s events allowed for a very high stress event for the rescuers with extreme cold temperatures, carrying all the equipment in and just being in that elements for that long with the rescuers and the victim and the group with the victim,” Ramsey said.

He recommends hikers avoid hiking in icy conditions and that they strongly consider weather conditions before heading up the mountains.

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