GREENVILLE, S.C. - South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers and civilians with the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART) rescued an injured hiker and two others Aug. 20 near Raven Cliff Falls in Caesar’s Head State Park.
The SC-HART includes professional rescuers from the State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (SC-TF1) and pilots and crew members from the South Carolina National Guard. They carry out helicopter rescues using the UH-60 Black Hawk and LUH-72 Lakota helicopters.
Initially, Cedar Mountain Fire Rescue was called to assist the hikers Aug. 19, but inclement weather, difficult terrain and oncoming darkness prevented a rescue.
“We got the call around 9 p.m. the previous night requesting our assistance,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Frank Wallace, South Carolina National Guard pilot for SC-HART. “We determined that, due to our crew, the terrain and the weather, we would not be able to conduct the rescue at that time. But the next morning, we took off at sunrise and met up with the other members of the team in Greenville.”
The team arrived on-site and realized it was going to be a challenging rescue.
“The winds were coming off the mountain tops creating turbulence and there was also some morning fog to deal with,” said Wallace. “The terrain had a lot of trees covering the slope, and there was what looked like a sheer drop-off near the rescue site. We surveyed the area from the air and came up with a plan to put the (medics) on the ground safely.”
Wallace said the foliage was so thick it was difficult to see the hikers.
“The only way we really knew exactly where they were is we saw an orange rope they had put up in a tree, and they started shaking the tree,” said Wallace.
After reaching the site, it took the SC-HART team about 45 minutes to complete the rescue. By 10 a.m., the injured hiker and two others had been hoisted from the heavily wooded, off-trail location near the falls.
This is the second rescue SC-HART was involved with this month. The rescue team also rescued two injured kayakers from the Chattooga River, Aug. 1.
“This rescue was in really difficult terrain also,” said Wallace. “It was up in the same general area and had triple vegetation. It would have been difficult to find them if the grid coordinates they gave us weren’t so accurate.”
SC-HART trains regularly to stay up-to-date with equipment, tactics and medical treatment.
“All this week, we’ve been conducting training for just these types of events,” said Wallace. “We have a strong team that works and trains well together. Everybody knows their job and does it when called upon. We have a willingness to go out there and do this. If people need help, everyone on this team has the mindset that we want to do whatever it is that needs to be done.”