Rescuer needs rescuing in Red River Gorge
The Wolfe County Search and Rescue team had to rescue one of their own after a rappeling mishap in Red River Gorge.
The team was searching for a lost hiker near the Chimney Top Rock overlook in Wolfe County July 4, following the successful rescue of three other hikers earlier that day.
Deputy Chief Mike Hackett said the team was preparing to rappel off a cliff near the overlook, deemed the fastest path to the hiker in the valley below.
"This was a spot that we actually have trained for, I would bet five or six times before, so this wasn't anything new," Hackett said.
On the way down, Chief John May encountered an "unanticipated increase in speed."
"It wasn't a free fall. It was a relatively slowed descent, but it was obviously faster than a controlled rappel," Hackett said.
Hackett said May tried to slow his descent, but it was too late. He hit the ground hard. Hackett estimates the drop was between 50 and 80 feet.
The rescue team immediately sprang into action, working—in the dark—to rescue one of their own.
"You go into work mode," Hackett said. "You figure out 'Hey, we trained for this. We know exactly what to do. Let's get to work and let's get this individual, who happens to be our teammate, up off the ground and into the ambulance.'"
Hackett said May was in a fair amount of pain when they reached him, but talking and in high spirits, given the situation.
"He's a pretty tough guy, so he took it well," he said.
After the team recovered the chief, he was taken to Clark Regional Medical Center, where he was evaluated and released. Hackett said May is expected to make a full recovery.
"He'll be out of rescue work for a little while. I do not know that time period. That's up to his physicians, but right now he's just taking it easy."
Hackett said what went wrong with May's descent is still being investigated.
"The system that he had set up, based on our pictures, was a safe way to do it and is how we train to do it. Whatever happened on the way down seems to be just an accident," he said.
After rescuing the chief, the team went on to locate the missing hiker and lead them to safety.