Plenty of prior practice training together paid off Thursday, as civilian mountain rescuers and a South Carolina Army National Guard Black Hawk crew teamed up to pluck an injured hiker from a narrow ledge at Table Rock State Park. The hiker suffered a terrifying 70-foot fall Wednesday, and the ground rescuers couldn’t get to him.
They could get to another ledge about 70 or 80 feet away. They could talk to him, and determined that he was not injured seriously; but he couldn’t climb up or down the sheer rock face. It wasn’t going to be an ordinary mountain rescue — it was a job for a helicopter.
Could the Guard help? Fortunately, the Guard trains with first responders in aquatic rescue, forming the ad hoc South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART). The mountain rescue guys kept up the encouragement through the long, cold night, and then the next morning the Guard scrambled an experienced aircrew, and picked up a team of SC-HART rescue men that they had worked with before.
The South Carolina Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew deployed from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover. They picked up a team of rescuers from Pickens County at the South Carolina National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility 2 in Greenville, prior to moving to Table Rock to conduct the rescue.
“It was key to use a helicopter to rescue the hiker. Due to difficult conditions, the rescuers on the ground couldn’t reach him,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. “We could see from the air, it looked like the closest they could get to him was about 80 feet.”
The crew ran a rescuer down to the injured hiker using the Black Hawk’s winch, and then winched them both back up.
The hiker was airlifted from the mountain at around 9:25 a.m. after reportedly being stranded for several hours after suffering a fall of approximately 70 feet.
Fortunately, the hiker survived the tumble without major injuries, and his most serious condition was hypothermia. With the patient aboard the helicopter, the question was, how best to get him to the hospital? A Black Hawk is a big, heavy helicopter, and most medevac helicopters are much smaller and lighter — and hospital pads are built to suit. Landing the Black Hawk at the hospital would be risky. Given the non-life-threatening injuries, the sensible thing was to land in an open area, and transfer the hapless hiker to a terrestrial ambulance.
Lots of people hike for the adventure, but sometimes they get some extra adventure. Welcome to the club of rescued-by-Black-Hawk, kid.