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    EAATS helicopter crew locates lost hikers

    EAATS helicopter crew locates lost hikers

    Photo By Brad Rhen | (Left to right) Staff Sgt. Kyle Waller of the Illinois National Guard’s Company B,...... read more read more

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA, UNITED STATES

    05.27.2022

    Story by Brad Rhen 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – A helicopter crew from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Site located a group of lost hikers recently.

    The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. on May 24 when Muir Army Airfield’s operations tower was contacted by Dauphin County emergency dispatchers who stated that three hikers were lost on the Rattling Run Trail in northern Dauphin County near Fort Indiantown Gap’s training area.

    According to the Dauphin County Emergency Management Agency, it was about 57 degrees when the hikers called 9-1-1 and they did not have appropriate gear for the weather. Additionally, one of the hiker’s cell phone battery had already died, and the other two were running low.

    The hikers told the dispatchers they could hear a helicopter flying overhead, and the dispatchers requested the helicopter’s assistance locating the hikers.

    The airfield contacted the helicopter – a CH-47 Chinook from EAATS with the call sign Mystic 25 – to continue flying the same pattern in an attempt to locate the hikers. Mystic 25 located the hikers at a short time later and guided rescuers on all-terrain vehicles to their location.

    The helicopter was piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kyle Kephart and Ron Henry, both instructor pilots at EAATS. Staff Sgt. Robert Prigel, an EAATS instructor, was in the back of the aircraft with two students: Staff Sgt. Anthony Bearoff of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Company B, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion and Staff Sgt. Kyle Waller of the Illinois National Guard’s Company B, 238th GSAB.

    Kephart, a Palmyra, Pa., resident, said the flight was a routine training flight for the flight engineer instructor course EAATS. They were in the air for about 30 minutes when they got the call about the lost hikers.

    “We had gone up in the area doing our training flight, and we were at one of our LZs in the training area when we got the call and they asked us to retrace our steps,” he said.

    Once the crew got the request to help find the hikers, they were able to locate them within about 15 minutes, Kephart said.

    “We didn’t see them on the first pass,” he said. “On the first pass we were down pretty low, and they were kind of up on the high ground. It was on the way back that we decided to do a higher pass and check the ridges, and that’s when we saw their flashlights.”

    The crew was using night-vision goggles, which made it easier to see the hikers’ flashlights, Kephart said.

    Once the crew found the hikers, they forwarded their coordinates back to Muir and came up to a high hover to avoid blowing debris on the hikers. When they did so, they could see vehicles making their way down the trail toward the hikers.

    “We assumed they were probably rescue vehicles looking for them, so we turned our white search light on and flashed it a few times and just hovered there,” Kephart said.

    Henry, a North Cornwall Township, Pa., resident said the crew actually located the hikers within their planned route for that evening’s flight. The maneuvers they did also were part of the course they were already conducting, he said.

    “The tasks are terrain flight, terrain flight deceleration, and that’s what we did,” said Henry, who retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2008, has been an instructor pilot at EAATS for over 20 years. “When you’re low, you have to take considerations when you’re going to fly low and stop and for obstacle clearance and those kinds of things, and that’s what we were already doing on our training mission out there. It just happened to coincide with being able to assist with finding them.”

    Kephart and Henry both said it felt good to be able to help people in need.

    “It was good training – real training for the students to be out there practicing what we train to do in a real-life situation,” Kephart said. “It’s really the best test of their skills to be out there helping the community and also training on what they’re here to learn.”

    “Anytime you see a real-world results it’s a little more satisfying,” Henry said. “When you know you assisted with helping somebody, it’s a satisfying feeling.”

    None of the hikers sustained any injuries.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.27.2022
    Date Posted: 05.27.2022 08:23
    Story ID: 421717
    Location: FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA, US 
    Hometown: LEBANON, PA, US
    Hometown: PALMYRA, PA, US

    Web Views: 48
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN