Whitesburg KY
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Rescue of hikers points to need for search team

Three hikers from Virginia, including one who broke his leg, were rescued Monday on Pine Mountain by rescue squads from Letcher County and neighboring Virginia.

Jenkins Police Chief Jim Stephens said he received a call around 9:45 p.m. on January 4 explaining that James Olinger, 58, Justin Boggs and Kim Boggs, all of Wise, Va., were lost somewhere on the Kentucky/Virginia border. Stephens said the hikers were located around 9 a.m. on January 5 on Pine Mountain in the Bentley Loop area of Payne Gap.

“They told us darkness fell and they lost their way,” said Stephens. “They were just out hiking. That was just one of their hobbies.”

Stephens said the search for the hikers took rescuers as far as they could go on all-terrain vehicles. Rescuers then had to walk three miles along Pine Mountain to reach the hikers. Stephens said rain and fog also made it difficult to find the men.

Olinger, who fell and broke his leg around 3 p.m. on January 4, was carried down the mountain by several emergency workers. Paul Miles, director of Letcher County Emergency Management, said it took rescuers until 3 p.m. to get Olinger down from the mountain because six or seven people at a time carried him.

Miles said each group of rescuers could carry Olinger only a short distance in the steep terrain before becoming exhausted and giving way to another team.

“They were having a hard time walking on their own, much less carrying someone,” said Miles.

Stephens said Kim Boggs and his son, Justin Boggs were brought to safety around noon.

Olinger was taken to Jenkins Community Hospital. Miles said Olinger has possible hip and rib injuries in addition to a broken leg.

Stephens said the hikers were prepared to brave the elements.

“They had blankets, sleeping bags, cell phones and lights,” said Stephens.

Fire departments from Colson, Gordon, Jenkins, Mayking, Neon, Sandlick and Whitesburg along with police from Jenkins, Pound, Va., Wise, the Virginia State Police and U.S. Forest Service participated in the search and rescue. The Black Diamond Rescue Team from Virginia also assisted.

Stephens said Payne Gap residents Greg Bentley and Carl Rose were instrumental in helping find the hikers because they know the area well.

“It was a super job by everyone,” said Stephens. “All and all it went real well. We had a serious amount of cooperation.”

Miles said that the hiking incident is a perfect example of why the emergency management department is creating the Pine Mountain Search and Res- cue Team.

“We just think it is going to be an extra resource to use because of the increase in tourism and the trail system that is developing in the county,” said Miles.

Miles said the search and rescue team will also respond to allterrain vehicle accidents.

The first meeting of the Pine Mountain Search and Rescue team is set for 6 p.m. January 12 at Whitesburg City Hall.

“There are so many people in the county who aren’t involved in fire and rescue or police, but still have so much to offer such as the horsemen and ATV clubs,” said Miles.

Persons wishing more information about the search and rescue team asked to call Miles at 633-0182 or 633-2190.

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