Members of North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team, known as NC HART, airlifted an injured hiker Wednesday night from the area near Hunt Fish Falls in Avery County. The 70-year-old man suffered an injured hip and was unable to hike out. Deep in the woods, with darkness nearing and facing an extended hike carrying the injured man, local rescue crews requested assistance from the NC HART program. The HART crew hoisted the injured hiker into the aircraft, along with a local paramedic who was already providing treatment. They flew both to a nearby landing area and transferred them to a waiting ambulance for transport to a local hospital.
“NC HART represents the best of North Carolina, with our state’s first responders and military joining forces to save lives,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “Tonight’s rescue required training and courage and I appreciate the dedication and service of our NC HART members and local rescuers.”
NC HART is a North Carolina Emergency Management program that pairs civilian rescuers with military and law enforcement aviation assets. Local rescue technicians complete extensive helo-aquatic rescue training with helicopters and aircrews from the State Highway Patrol and N.C. National Guard. On any given mission, two or three of the 60 specially-trained technicians are called upon and partnered with an aircrew to rescue stranded or injured persons. Technicians and pilots train together monthly, rotating training sites so they can practice various types of rescues: people stranded in rapidly moving water, on mountains, cliffs or waterfalls.
Wednesday nights rescue was conducted by a Salisbury-based aircrew from the N.C. National Guard flying a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and three rescue technicians from the Charlotte Fire Department, but the first responders could have been from any of the 14 emergency service agencies statewide that participate in the program.
Established in 2004, the NC HART 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. Two NC HART crews were deployed to Texas last month to help search for and rescue victims during Hurricane Harvey’s widespread floods.