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Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:15

Rangers rescue family of six

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out rescueWhen George and Heather Ferrell, of Louisiana, began to hike up Mount LeConte Oct. 18 with their four children, they didn’t expect to become the subject of a search and rescue. The family, whose children are aged 4, 5, 10, and 12, had planned to hike up on Rainbow Falls Trail and return on Bull Head Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

But as darkness fell they got lost, and at 2:12 a.m. the Pigeon Forge Police Department received a 911 call from the family requesting help. The hikers were underprepared, exhausted and wet in the cold weather, and unable to determine which way led back to the trailhead. The call dropped before an exact location could be determined, so park rangers responded to both the Rainbow Falls and Bull Head trails. 

At 7:18 a.m. Oct. 19, rangers located the family at Bull Head Trail, about 0.7 miles below Mount LeConte. The hikers had remained on the trail, which made them easier to find, and rangers helped them up to the summit. There, LeConte Lodge staff provided the exhausted hikers with food and dry clothes. Overnight temperatures at the lodge dipped to 28 degrees. 

Rangers hiked out with the family later that day as temperatures warmed, emerging at the Rainbow Falls trailhead at 5:30 p.m. Though exhausted, they were uninjured and left in their own car. 

“We are grateful the family stayed on the trail allowing us the best chance to find them quickly,” said acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We take this opportunity to remind everyone to make sure they are prepared before they set out for a hike by understanding the terrain, distance and weather conditions. Your pack should always include water, clothing, food and a flashlight so that you are prepared for the unexpected.”

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