Helicopter Crew Helps Rescue Lost Hikers in Dauphin County

May 31, 2022

A helicopter crew from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Site recently helped to locate a group of lost hikers.

The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. on May 24 when Muir Army Airfield’s operations tower was contacted by Dauphin County emergency dispatchers, who stated that three hikers were lost on the Rattling Run Trail in northern Dauphin County, near Fort Indiantown Gap’s training area.

According to the Dauphin County Emergency Management Agency, it was about 57 degrees when the hikers called 911 and they did not have appropriate gear for the weather. Also, one of the hiker’s cell phone battery had died, and the other two’s were running low.

The hikers told the dispatchers they could hear a helicopter flying overhead, and the dispatchers then requested the helicopter’s assistance in locating the hikers.

The airfield contacted the helicopter from EAATS with the call sign Mystic 25 – to continue flying the same pattern in an attempt to locate the hikers. Soon Mystic 25 located the hikers and guided rescuers on all-terrain vehicles to their location.

The helicopter was maneuvered by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kyle Kephart and Ron Henry, both instructor pilots at EAATS. Staff Sgt. Robert Prigel, an EAATS instructor, was along with two students: Staff Sgt. Anthony Bearoff of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Company B, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion; and Staff Sgt. Kyle Waller of the Illinois National Guard’s Company B, 238th GSAB.

Kephart, of Palmyra, told the Pa. National Guard they had been on a training flight for a flight engineer instructor course. Both crew members were in the air for about 30 minutes before they received the call about the lost hikers.

“We didn’t see them on the first pass. ... We were down pretty low, and they were kind of up on the high ground,” he said. “It was on the way back that we decided to do a higher pass and check the ridges, and that’s when we saw their flashlights.”

The crew members used night-vision goggles, which made it less difficult to spot the flashlights, Kephart said.

Once the hikers were found, they redirected their coordinates back to Muir and came up to a high hover to avoid blowing debris on the hikers. When they did so, they could see vehicles making their way down the trail.

“We assumed they were probably rescue vehicles looking for them, so we turned our white searchlight on and flashed it a few times and just hovered there,” Kephart said.

Kephart and Henry both said it felt good to be able to help people in need.

“It was good training – real training for the students to be out there practicing what we train to do in a real-life situation,” Kephart said. “It’s really the best test of their skills to be out there helping the community.”

“Anytime you see a real-world results it’s a little more satisfying,” said Henry, who retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2008. “When you know you assisted with helping somebody, it’s a satisfying feeling.”

None of the hikers sustained any injuries according to the Pennsylvania National Guard.

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