By SARAH GREGORY
The hiker trapped for more than 24 hours on a ledge above Margarette Falls has been rescued and is apparently in good condition!
Eric Farris, a resident of Ohio with relatives who recently moved to Greene County, stepped out of a North Carolina National Guard helicopter at approximately 3:25 p.m., showing signs of fatigue but no injuries or other health problems.
The helicopter, carrying a National Guard flight crew and a team of civilian volunteer rescuers as well as Farris, set down at a makeshift landing zone not far from Margarette Falls.
There, Farris was greeted by his much-relieved mother and sister before entering a Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services ambulance.
He was transported to Laughlin Memorial Hospital to be checked for health problelms, but an EMS employee assisting him at the scene was heard to say, “He’s fine. He’s fine.”
Dense fog had covered the mountains in the Margarette Falls area most of the day, making a rescue attempt from the air impossible.
The helicopter had waited at the landing zone for hours, but left after 2 p.m. to return to North Carolina when the weather did not change and there was no indication than an air rescue could be made.
When the fog lifted for a short while about 3 p.m., however, the helicopter crew was called back by Greene County Emergency Management Agency Director Bill Brown.
The crew took advantage of the break to fly directly to a position above where the hiker was trapped, not able to go either up or down.
There, rescuers rappelled down to him, secured him, lifted him into the helicopter, and quickly flew him to the landing zone.
Meanwhile, volunteers from the Greeneville Emergency and Rescue Squad and the Washington County Rescue Service who had set out on foot to try to reach Farris began heading back to the command center that had been established near the landing zone.
Please see Saturday’s issue of The Greeneville Sun for additional details and photos.
UPDATE 4:37 p.m.
Crews have rescued the stranded hiker who had been stuck near Margarette Falls since Thursday afternoon. He was uninjured, officials said.
The Greeneville Sun will have more details soon.
UPDATE 12:26 p.m.
The National Guard helicopter from North Carolina is still grounded due to fog. A rescue crew has set out for the stranded climber on foot, but rescuers still haven't reached him.
Rescuers still haven't been able to communicate with the climber verbally, but he has stepped out and waved to rescuers.
UPDATE: 9:41 a.m.
By Sarah R. Gregory
Local emergency responders continue efforts to assist a hiker stranded since Thursday afternoon at the top of Margarette Falls.
At this time, crews from the Greeneville Emergency and Rescue Squad and Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Management Agency have established a landing zone for a military helicopter operated by the National Guard, based in North Carolina.
As of 9:30 a.m. the helicopter had landed and the crew was being briefed before the rescue operation.
The hiker is believed to be uninjured, but has been stuck at the top of the falls since at least 1:45 p.m. Thursday when Greene County 911 received the initial call.
Another hiker, believed to be a relative of the man, fell approximately 20 feet and sustained a non-life-threatening head injury.
He was transported by private vehicle to a local hospital for treatment.
In addition to the Greeneville Emergency and Rescue Squad and EMA, responders from Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services, the Greene County Sheriff's Department, Washington County Rescue Services, and Knox County Sheriff's Office have assisted with rescue attempts.
National Guard operators based in Tennessee have been unable to assist due to weather conditions at a base in Smyrna.
UPDATE 6:40 a.m.
By Michael S. Reneau
Assistant Managing Editor
Rescuers weren’t able to reach a stranded climber overnight near Margarette Falls, despite the efforts of both Greene and Washington County rescue squads.
Bucky Ayers of the Greene County Rescue Squad said crews had planned to climb to the stranded climber’s position overnight. “It just got unsafe for them to climb,” he said at 6:20 a.m. Friday. Authorities tried to get a police helicopter to the climber’s position yesterday, but high winds made it impossible.
Ayers said local crews are working with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) to bring in a military helicopter from North Carolina sometime Friday to snatch the climber. “We won’t know anything until daylight,” Ayers said before sunrise.
The climber, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, had built a fire overnight, Ayers said. “That’s pretty much all we know.”
A second hiker fell from the ledge Thursday afternoon and was transported by private vehicle to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
Keep checking greenevillesun.com and the Friday edition of The Greeneville Sun for more details.