40 hikers rescued on Pine Mountain; one is hospitalized

@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

A group of students was rescued after they became lost in the area of High Rock, shown here in 2007. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

One hiker remained hospitalized Friday morning after 37 Pennsylvania college students and three staff members were rescued Thursday night from Pine Mountain in Letcher County, police said.

The hikers from La Salle University in Philadelphia called for help about 7 p.m. Thursday and were found by 11 p.m., Kentucky State Police trooper Tony Watts said.

The group, which was hiking near Bad Branch Falls at a place called High Rock, stayed together near a campfire and stayed in contact with police and rescue workers by cellphone after that first call, Watts said.

The hikers had to leave the mountain by foot, and that took until 3:45 a.m. Friday, Letcher County Fire and Rescue Ambulance Service Director Gary Rogers said.

All 40 of the hikers were taken to Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital, where one remained Friday, hospital spokeswoman Hollie Phillips said.

The remaining hiker is in stable condition and is expected to be released Saturday, said Dena Sparkman, Community CEO for Whitesburg ARH.

The students were treated for possible hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion, Sparkman said. One hiker had strained knees, she said.

In addition to medical treatment, she said, hospital staff provided the cold, wet students with chicken noodle soup, dry hospital scrubs and pajama pants.

"The other thing was loaning them cellphones so that they could call their parents. That was an emotional time," Sparkman said.

LaSalle spokesman Jon Caroulis said the person who was hospitalized Friday was there for observation because of a pre-existing condition. Caroulis declined to elaborate. The group was expected to return to Philadelphia on Saturday.

Caroulis said the group, including three non-faculty staff members, was on an alternative spring break trip to Eastern Kentucky that the university has offered for several years.

The students had stayed in Harlan County, where they were volunteering for a non-profit organization, Caroulis said.

The students had hiked during previous trips, but this time, they took the wrong path down the mountain, he said.

Blake Enlow, executive director of a Harlan-based group called Christian Outreach with Appalachian People, said the college group was helping to remodel a home and build another.

"Thankfully, they are all OK, just worn out," Enlow said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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