Cell phone ping locates missing hikers – WVLT

WALLAND, Tenn. (WVLT)- What was supposed to be a two hour hike in the woods ended up being a 12-hour nightmare for one Blount County family.

A group of 8 got lost while hiking on Old Chilhowee Mountain. The TWRA says a cell phone ping saved their lives.

“They weren’t very equipped with food with water and had no protection from the rain. So after it got dark it was cooler, they were all soaked, kind of in bad shape,” said Matt Cameron, Public Information Officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Eventually one person in the group was able to get a signal.

“They were able to take GPS coordinates that were pined from a cell phone call.”

That’s when TWRA officers and members from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Rescue Squad headed towards the mountain.

Cameron says a property owner nearby allowed the officers to access the mountain from his property. Two wildlife officers had a good knowledge of the terrain of the mountain.

“They were able to import it into a map and pinpoint that map,” said Cameron.

Cameron says one of the adults was in his mid 70’s and became hypothermic.

“It was well below 70 degrees and hypothermia can set in under fairly warm temperatures,” he said.

In most areas that rural, cell service is not always available. Cameron suggests if you go hiking to take a paper map and compass.

“The batteries don’t run out on a paper map…put a lighter in there. You can stay warm, you can cook food if you had to and the smoke signal will be recognizable.”

He also says to stay where you are.

“They stayed put because that’s what they were told to and everyone got home safe.”


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