Emergency personnel check out one of four stranded hikers rescued Friday afternoon.
Four stranded hikers were all smiles as they returned to the spillway at Laurel Lake dam after more than a day of being trapped by the rising water.
Emergency personnel were called to the area about 4:20 a.m. Friday to rescue Hagen Paul, 22, Flynn Paul, 16, Dave King, 22 and Coty Jones, 25, who were trapped on the Laurel County side of the Laurel River when heavy rain turned it into rushing water.
“There’s no way we could have cross the river, said Hagen Paul. “It was impossible.”
The hikers, who had set out prepared for temperatures in the 70s, spent the cold night huddled around a fire, started with some emergency equipment Hagen Paul had in his backpack. With the use of a fishing pole, the hikers were able to scrounge up a meal of fish from the river.
When efforts to reach the hikers on the Laurel County side of the river proved unsuccessful, a rescue team from Woodbine Fire and Rescue went down to the river and located the hikers.
Chief Rick Fore said by 10:08 a.m., they had sighted King.
“We had to wait until the rain let up to get a rescue crew across to them,” Fore said.
The rushing river was made worse by water pouring through the dam’s flood gates.
Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses said once the Army Corps of Engineers shut the flow of water off, it took about 45 minutes for the water to recede.
With the water down, the rescue team set up a rope line across the river and were able to get the hikers across.
The hikers and the rescue team emerged from the ordeal about 7:30 p.m. Friday, uninjured except for mild hypothermia.
Woodbine Fire and Rescue, Oak Grove Fire Department, Laurel County Rescue Squad, Laurel County Emergency Management, Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, Whitley County Sheriff’s Office, Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forestry Service and Whitley County EMS, were all involved in the rescue effort.