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Strangers help sick hiker on Mount LeConte get medical attention

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – A group of high-ranking strangers may have helped save a life on Mount LeConte earlier this week after a hiker developed a life-threatening illness.

“We did everything we could because that’s what you do when someone needs help,” said hiker Chris Kniseley, who along with friends Matt Reed, Pat Satterfield, Hank Bowman and Sean Mehaffey, said he would do it again “in a heartbeat”.

The friends were at LeConte Lodge on Monday, July 18, when they said an alert had been reported that a hiker had developed a life-threatening illness and had “passed out” on the Trillium Gap trail in the National Park of the Great Smoky Mountains.

“Our group has been contacted by LeConte staff to assist in the recovery of the young woman from the Trillium Gap Trail,” Kniselely said via email. “She had passed out and the cold rain made it worse.”

A stretcher had been lowered from the mountain to her, but getting her back up was very difficult with the limited number of staff on the mountain that day, Kniseley said. The stretcher had to be taken back 1.5 miles down the trail to the lodge and it was already 6:30 p.m.

Staff approached the group and asked if they could help with the recovery effort. Of course, the men agreed. Within minutes, the group was heading for the trail.

“We swapped personnel with our 5 bodies and the personnel who had been shooting worked to keep the young lady awake as we fired as fast as we could down the track,” Kniseley said. “We finally got her to the lodge after about an hour of pulling.”

Kniseley said that before the group descended the mountain the following morning, they learned that the woman’s condition had worsened overnight and hoped she could leave the mountain as soon as possible.

The men who helped her don’t know who she is or where she comes from. The condition of the hiker and her identity have not been disclosed.

“She and her family are in our thoughts,” Kniseley said Thursday. The group hopes to learn more about his identity and condition.

A Tennessee National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Knoxville airlifted the hiker from the mountain around noon Tuesday. The crew delivered the patient to UT Health Medical Center within 12 minutes of leaving the mountain.

“The staff at LeConte did everything they could for this young lady,” Kniseley said. “Hoping and praying that she gets better.”

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