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“Unable to Stand or Walk”: Sick Hiker Airlifted Off Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains

Ill backpacker rescued in 90-minute mission.

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The Tennessee National Guard airlifted a severely ill Appalachian Trail hiker to safety on Tuesday after an illness left them stranded in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the Tennessee National Guard said it had received word just after 7 a.m. of a hiker too sick to stand or walk at the Double Spring Gap shelter. Less than 30 minutes later, the National Guard’s 1-171st Aviation Regiment sent a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to the site from its base at Knoxville.

Once there, the helicopter’s crew chief, Sgt. Chris Farrar, lowered Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani, one of the mission’s flight paramedics, down to the ground to assess the hiker, then raised them both up to the helicopter a few minutes later. The helicopter then flew the sick hiker to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. According to the Tennessee National Guard, the entire mission took less than an hour and a half.

This isn’t the first time this year that the Tennessee National Guard has had to rescue a stricken hiker from the Appalachian Trail. On January 18, another flight evacuated a hypothermic hiker from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gregory Bald, where he had become disoriented in waist-deep snow. Notably, Farrar and DeZuani were part of that mission as well.