News: NC Guard aviators, HART rescue stranded climber in Tennessee
Story by Maj. Matthew Devivo
RALEIGH, N.C. – A distress call went out early Friday morning concerning a climber who had become stranded on a cliff 300 feet above the ground at Margarette Falls, in East Tennessee.
North Carolina Army National Guard aviation assets, based in Salisbury, N.C., in conjunction with members of N.C. Emergency Management's Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART), were tasked to rescue the climber after local rescue crews were unable to reach him due to fog and high winds Thursday night.
“Our partnership and training with NCHART is the reason this mission was successful,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Scott Monticelli, a resident of Charlotte, N.C., and 19-year NCNG veteran. “This was the first time, with the many HART missions I have made, where the weather conditions (high winds and low visibility) made it very challenging.”
Officials say the climber, identified as Eric Farris, a resident of Ohio, was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and had been trapped on the 25-square-foot ledge for more than 24-hours. He successfully built a fire during the night to stay warm.
“We had a lot of mountain around us as we hovered about 140 feet above the climber and sent the HART technician down the hoist,” said Sgt. Kendall Gantt. “My adrenalin was up and everyone did their jobs.”
Gantt, a Lexington, N.C., resident and the rescue hoist operator was on his first HART mission.
NCHART is a highly specialized team consisting of North Carolina Army National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management personnel and local firefighters that perform helicopter-based rescues.
The rescue mission was a success and the climber stepped out of the NCNG UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at approximately 3:25 p.m. yesterday.
Fortunately, Farris showed signs of fatigue but no injuries or other health problems.
This mission is the fifth successful collaboration between the NCNG and NCHART since last July. NCHART also executes missions involving swift water/flood rescue, lost persons and urban/wilderness high angle rescues.