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Army National Guard medical crew rescues stricken Smokies hiker

The hiker was carried down the Alum Cave Trail to a point where the helicopter could pick up and transport the person to UT Medical Center.

Persisting through cloudy conditions, a Tennessee Army National Guard crew airlifted an ailing hiker Tuesday afternoon at LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The unnamed hiker was flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment. The person's condition -- identified as a life-threatening illness -- was unknown Wednesday.

The helicopter had to confront challenging cloud cover to pull off the rescue, according to a news release.

Authorities were alerted about noon Tuesday that the ill hiker would need to be airlifted from the lodge on top of Mount LeConte. The person needed "immediate medical care," according to the release.

A Tennessee Army National Guard medical flight crew was dispatched in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from its Knoxville base.

They arrived at the mountain at 1:03 p.m., but cloud cover prevented them from reaching the lodge.

"Rescuers on the ground then transported the hiker down the Alum Cave trail to get below the cloud layer so the aircraft could pick up the hiker," according to the Army National Guard release. "Within 10 minutes, the aircraft made visual contact with the rescuers, and the flight crew began rescue hoist operations."

A member of the team was hoisted down to assess the hiker. But clouds moved in so thickly that the aircraft had to move away for safety, leaving the crewmember and hiker behind.

Seven minutes later, clouds broke and the crew came back, pulling both from the ground into the aircraft and carrying them  on to the hospital in Knoxville. The hiker was treated during the 12-minute flight.

According to the National Guard, participating crew members were: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Backus, pilot in command; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trailson Moore, pilot; Sgt. Daniel Mills, crew chief; Col. Robert Ross, flight surgeon; Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, flight paramedic; and Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani, flight paramedic.

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