Raleigh – Members of the North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team, known as NCHART, rescued a man Monday night who was stranded near the top of Mt. Pisgah after the cable car used to transport him to and from the transmitting equipment stopped working, leaving him about 400 feet down an embankment in more than two feet of snow.
The man called his employer who then called 9-1-1, but deep snow covered the access trail that would allow ground crews to reach him. Five N.C. Mountain Rescue teams, comprised of 30 highly-trained mountain rescue technicians from Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Mitchell counties, were also deployed to support ground-based rescue efforts. With concerns about the onset of hypothermia, NCHART was sent to aid in the rescue.
Approximately three and a half hours later, the NCHART crew – this time comprised of a North Carolina National Guard Black Hawk and three rescue technicians from the Charlotte Fire Department – was deployed, rescued the man and delivered him safely to the Asheville Airport. Local emergency medical teams checked the stranded person and found him in good condition, not requiring further treatment.
“The coordination between North Carolina Emergency Management, North Carolina National Guard, Haywood Emergency Management and Charlotte Fire Department to rescue this man is an extraordinary example of dedication beyond measure,” said N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “It takes remarkable effort and skill to execute a strategic rescue mission in harsh winter conditions. The NCHART pairs the best civilian rescuers with military and law enforcement aviation resources, making these teams a valuable asset to North Carolina.”
The NCHART is a North Carolina Emergency Management resource that brings local, state, military and law enforcement agencies together to respond to search-and-rescue missions. Local rescue technicians complete extensive helo-aquatic rescue training and are paired with helicopters from the State Highway Patrol or N.C. National Guard. On any given mission, two or three of the 60 specially-trained technicians are called upon and paired with helicopter pilots to rescue stranded or injured persons. Technicians and pilots train together monthly, rotating venues so they can practice various types of rescues: people stranded in rapidly moving water, on mountains, cliffs or waterfalls.
Yesterday’s rescue technicians were from the Charlotte Fire Department, but the first responders could have been from any of the 14 emergency service agencies that participate in the program.
Begun in 1999, the NCHART 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.