Hiker stranded on Appalachian Trail rescued

CHEROKEE, N.C. (WVLT) -- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is reporting that the hiker in distress has been pulled out by rescuers. He was identified as Steven Ainsworth, a 56 year-old from Washington, North Carolina.

NPS spokesperson Molly Schroer said the Ainsworth first called the Cherokee Police Dept. around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. He said he was stranded between Pecks Corner and Tricorner Knob Shelters. Schroer explained that, by then, it was too late for the Park Service to search with a helicopter, so the rangers took off on foot.

The Park Service said the pair hiked through steep terrain, high winds, and four to five foot snow drifts for nine hours since being dispatched Thursday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, an air operation was launched from Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport to find him in the remote areas.

Officials say he will be transported to the hospital once he lands safely at Galinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.

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