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Helicopter rescue team airlifts injured hiker to safety

Members of North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team, known as NC HART, airlifted an injured hiker today from a trail on Grandfather Mountain near the Avery/Watauga county line.

The man suffered a broken ankle and was unable to hike out of the woods. Local rescuers from Watauga and Avery counties hiked in and treated the patient on site. Facing an extended carry-out of more than six hours with the injured man, local rescuers requested assistance from the NC HART program. While avoiding fog rolling over the mountain, the NC HART crew hoisted the injured hiker into the aircraft, flew to a nearby landing area and transferred him to a waiting ambulance for transport to a local hospital.

“NC HART represents the best of North Carolina, partnering our state’s first responders and aviators to save lives,” NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. “Today’s rescue required extensive training and skill and I appreciate the dedication and service of our NC HART members and local rescuers.”

NC HART is a North Carolina Emergency Management program that pairs civilian rescuers with military and law enforcement aircraft and aircrews. Local rescue technicians complete extensive helo-aquatic rescue training with helicopters and aircrews from the State Highway Patrol and N.C. National Guard. On any given mission, two or three of the 60 specially-trained technicians are called upon and partnered with an aircrew to rescue stranded or injured persons. Technicians and pilots train together monthly, rotating training sites so they can practice various types of rescues: people stranded in rapidly moving water, on mountains, cliffs or waterfalls.

Today’s rescue was conducted by a Salisbury-based aircrew from the N.C. National Guard flying a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and three rescue technicians from the Charlotte Fire Department. More than a dozen emergency service agencies statewide provide trained rescue technicians that participate in the program.

Established in 2004, the NC HART program was the first of its kind in the nation to implement a regimented training and response program that combines civilian and military resources. Teams have saved hundreds of lives since the program’s inception.