(GATLINBURG, Tenn.) -- A 56-year-old hiker was trapped in the Tennessee mountains for three days by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. The storm, having come inland, pounded the Appalachian Trail with record levels of snow.
Steve Ainsworth set out Monday for the final leg of a planned two-thousand-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail, just as Superstorm Sandy approached the Northeast.
On Friday, his rescue was captured on video after he got a strong enough signal on his cellphone to call 911.
“I was absolutely stunned. I had no idea there was going to be that much snow,” said Ainsworth, who was blocked by snow drifts up to five feet high.
With food and water running low and hypothermia setting in, Ainsworth waited for help to arrive.
On Friday, Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Brad Lund and a team took to the skies by helicopter and were able to trace footprints in the snow for a mile and a half. They led to the general area where Ainsworth had taken shelter.
Braving howling winds and freezing temperatures, trooper Jeff Buchanan was lowered from the helicopter to find the trapped hiker.
“He stuck his head out of his tent and said he’s never been so glad to see anybody in his whole life,” Buchanan said.
Ainsworth, who was in his socks, was pulled on board the helicopter. His rescue was recorded on video by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
After three days in the cold, Ainsworth suffered no injuries but said he was hungry.
The rescue team joked he could buy them steaks, he said.
“As long as I can have the first one,” he told them.
Ainsworth said he was thankful for Sergeant Lund and his team.
“You know, they’ll say, ‘That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do,’” he said, “But I am telling you, that’s more than a job.”
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