GPS devices aid rescue workers in finding lost hunter

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Carter County Rescue Squad members battled frigid temperatures and rough terrain to rescue a Jonesborough man trapped in the wilderness near the Dennis Cove area in Hampton on Friday morning.
   A 71-year-old man from Jonesborough, whose identity was not released, was located by rescue teams shortly before 2 a.m. Friday and assisted out of the forest of Dennis Cove at approximately 3 a.m.
   "We got him at 1:44 a.m. (Friday) morning and we got him out of the mountains at 3 a.m. Friday," said Terry Arnold, executive director of the Carter County Rescue Squad, who sent 12 members on the search operation.
   "He was cold and exhausted, but didn't have any major problems."
   Arnold said his office received a call shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday from a subject who said he had let a friend out near the Dennis Cove area to do some scouting and hunting.
   Two "hasty teams" comprised of three or four rescue squad members were dispatched from the Dennis Cove Recreation Area and the Frog Level Road entrance at the bottom of the mountain.
   Rescue teams were armed with GPS devices to track their locations and movement in the area, said Arnold. Teams searched a 2.2 to 2.5 mile radius of wilderness for the missing hunter. Rescuers also used all terrain vehicles searching for the lost hunter.
   Arnold said roughly three hours into the search, rescuers called in Wings Air Rescue to conduct an aerial sweep for the man.
   "We saved a lot of time by bringing Wings in," said Arnold. "When you're up there in the mountains, it gives you a bit better view of the terrain."
   Arnold said a rescue team pinpointed the man's position by urging him to use his flashlight to signal Wings. Once Wings spotted the flashlight, rescue teams were notified of its approximate position and employed the GPS to gauge the area where the missing hunter was located.
   Rescue teams were able to get a visual on the flashlight and locate the man, said Arnold.
   Arnold indicated that the hunter was either tracking a deer or still scouting when he ventured into rough terrain.
   "He was dressed for it but not for the period of time he was in there," he said. "He felt like he wouldn't have been able to make (out) all right."
   A valuable tool in the search was the squad's GPS -- global positioning system -- devices, which coordinate and track geographic positions around the county, said Arnold.
   Rescuers can calculate geographic coordinates and mark them on a laptop computer keeping a command center apprised of their whereabouts during the search, said Arnold.
   "We can also download the map onto the GPS," he said. "It is just higher technology. It was a big asset."
   Rescuers battled darkness and frigid temperatures that fell into the mid-teens after midnight Friday.
   "It was so cold our water froze," Arnold said.