Press Release issued by Clay County Rescue Squad Missions Coordinator, Brian Andrews:
On Wednesday, July 4th at appx. 1:30PM, Clay County Rescue Squad Operations Officer Brian Andrews received a call from Clay County E-911 for 3 lost hikers. It was a mother and 2 children that got seperated from the rest of their party after lunch. The father had called 911 very soon after he was unable to locate. CCRS, along with Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Fish and Game, US Forest Service, Cheaha State Park, Shinbone Valley VFD, and most importantly ALEA Aviation Unit all responded. And please don’t forget that 911 dispatchers are the true first responders by getting us the info we need and handling the situations properly to aid us from start to finish.
CCRS first went in towards McDill Point from the North which was the last known location for them. With no signs and no contact, even meeting other hikers, they came back out. At approximately 4:20PM, ALEA Aviation Unit in Montgomery was contacted for assistance. With flight time and bringing in specialized people, they were at least an hour out. They have the equipment and training to do this very well and are reserved for extreme situations. In this situation, no phone, supplies, food, or water warranted along with no known direction of travel at this point. Keep in mind their plan was to hike as a group and trail conditions altered this. CCRS sent hikers headed in from 2 different directions from the Nubbin Creek area from the South solely based on decades of experience with this area.
At around 6:30PM ALEA contacted ground units and advised they believed they had the lost hikers in sight. Clothing descriptions (primarily an orange shirt) were matched and it was certainly the hikers we were looking for. After verified, family was notified of positive ID and that we were moving in. ALEA pinpointed, gave GPS coords, and circled leading the SAR member on the ground directly in to them, which took nearly an hour more due to rugged terrain.
Once reaching the hikers, snacks and water were provided. They were led back out partially on the trail, then down the ridge back to the access road hiked in to get them. Once reaching the staging area, more food and water was waiting thanks to a couple more that showed up supporting CCRS. The family was led back to town where they could be on their way home.
Again, CCRS would like to thank all agencies and people that assisted today. This is what we do, but it’s an awesome outcome to find lost hikers, not injured hikers. That’s what we enjoy.