Tennessee National Guard Rescues Two Hikers in Smoky Mountains

Tennessee National Guard conducted two air evacuations for hikers in distress in the Great Smoky Mountains.

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. – On the afternoon and evening of May 31, flight crews from the Tennessee Army National Guard, based at Joint Base McGhee-Tyson, executed two air evacuation missions for hikers experiencing medical emergencies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the Tennessee National Guard and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) were alerted to a hiker suffering from respiratory distress near Mount LeConte Lodge, southeast of Gatlinburg. The hiker required immediate medical assistance and transport to a hospital.

Upon notification, the Tennessee National Guardsmen from the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Knoxville quickly assembled a flight crew, readied a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and departed Joint Base McGhee-Tyson within fifteen minutes. The flight crew, consisting of Maj. Hulon Holmes, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Luke Hargrove, Sgt. Daniel Bandy, Sgt. 1st Class Nolan Ogle, and Giovanni DeZuani, arrived at the lodge fourteen minutes later.

Park rangers were already providing first aid to the hiker when the helicopter crew arrived. The crew chief, Daniel Bandy, lowered paramedics Nolan Ogle and Giovanni DeZuani to the ground to assess and prepare the hiker for transport. The hiker, along with Ogle, DeZuani, and the hiker’s wife, were hoisted into the helicopter and flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, arriving around 4:30 p.m.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., the Tennessee National Guard was notified of another hiker in possible cardiac distress along the Alum Cave Trails. The mission was quickly approved, and the crew commenced preflight procedures. Departing at 8:15 p.m., the crew, consisting of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian Spotts, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Brasfield, Staff Sgt. Ryan McKnight, Sgt. Daniel Bandy, Sgt. 1st Class Nolan Ogle, and Giovanni DeZuani, reached the trail area fifteen minutes later.

Park rangers on the scene used smoke canisters to signal their location. The crew chief, Ryan McKnight, lowered Nolan Ogle to the ground, where he assessed and prepared the hiker for hoisting. Both were safely hoisted into the helicopter, and the aircraft transported the hiker to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, landing at approximately 9:10 p.m.

Both rescue missions were completed swiftly, ensuring the hikers received prompt medical care.

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