Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Associated Press
TOWNSEND, Tenn. - Crews spent Friday clearing trees and reaching stranded visitors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, a day after violent thunderstorms swept through the popular tourist spot, killing at least two people and injuring several others.
The storms hit Thursday evening at the west end of the 500,000-acre, densely forested reserve on the Tennessee-North Carolina line. The storms then moved down the mountains to the Tennessee River Valley.
• At Abrams Creek Campground, a tree fell into a swimming hole, killing 41-year-old Rachael Burkhart of Corryton, Tenn., park officials said.
The same tree struck a family, including a 7-year-old girl who was unconscious when pulled from the water, but was revived after her mother performed CPR. The father suffered vertebrae fractures, multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung and the mother was injured less seriously.
The girl and her father were airlifted to a Knoxville hospital. Their conditions were not available Friday.
• Also killed in the park was Ralph Frazier, 50, of Buford, Ga., who was riding a motorcycle when a falling limb struck him in the head, park officials said. His passenger was uninjured.
Most of the damage appeared to be in the popular Cades Cove area of the park and in communities just outside the park boundaries.
"At Cades Cove we had three medical emergencies -- we had a cardiac involving a woman, we had a man struck by a tree who sustained a back injury and we had a third male who was injured by shattered windshield glass when the vehicle was struck by a tree," Chief Ranger Clayton Jordan said. "It took us up to six hours to be able to gain access for ambulances to get into Cades Cove and evacuate the injured there."
On Friday, the first priority was to establish an emergency path to reach stranded vehicles. "All through the night we were finding these pockets of stranded motorists and freeing them up," he said.