Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself in a position where you need to be airlifted from the bottom of Tallulah Gorge. However, if you do, know that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is prepared to come to the rescue.
DNR’s Law Enforcement Section, members of DNR’s Search and Rescue team (SAR) and the Tallulah Falls Fire Department recently gathered at Tallulah Gorge State Park for a long-line rescue training exercise. After a safety briefing, trainees made their way to the bottom of the nearly 1,000-foot-deep gorge while DNR Aviation Unit pilots maneuvered a helicopter into the gorge. Long-line rescues are performed when a victim cannot be transported out of an area on foot. A helicopter is used to carry the victim in a stainless steel basket or Billy Pugh net connected to the helicopter by a long-line.
Once the ground crew was in position, the hovering helicopter lowered the basket to the ground crew. The crew received the basket, unhooked it from the long-line, simulated securing a victim, and then attached the basket back to the line on the helicopter overhead. After receiving a thumbs-up from the ground crew, the helicopter towed the basket to a safe location, where another team was waiting to receive the “victim.”
DNR State Parks Manager Danny Tatum helped organize the training. “A gorge floor permit is needed for visitors wishing to access the gorge floor, and we go over the rules and regulations when issuing these permits,” Tatum said. “We always inform visitors to immediately call 911 for help in the event of an injury. If they do not have a cell phone, then we ask them to tell anyone on the gorge floor that help is needed, and we respond as soon as possible. If the injury is severe or we are not able to transport the injured guest out of the gorge, DNR Aviation is contacted for assistance.”
In addition to being the lead agency for any incidents on wildlife management areas and state parks, DNR is also the lead state agency for any search of missing persons in woodlands and for drownings or missing persons on rivers and lakes. The Aviation Unit is used for surveillance and observation, law enforcement support and lifting victims and equipment out when these incidents occur.
Training is critical to ensure the Department is prepared when these situations arise – even at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge.
Click HERE for raw video footage from the dramatic long-line rescue on Friday, Sept. 29, 2012 (Courtesy of Fox 5 Atlanta). A hiker in Dawson County fell 20-plus feet at Cochran Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Rescue crews from Dawson County aided the victim, before Cpt. Steven Turner with Georgia DNR airlifted him out of the area.