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20 rescued from Devil’s Bathtub after flooding

Mike Still • May 25, 2020 at 1:40 PM

FORT BLACKMORE — The last group of hikers stranded in the Devil’s Bathtub trail area emerged on Monday after a wet and chilly night.

Duffield Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Roger Carter said a group of five hikers was brought out at about 10 a.m. after spending the night stranded by rising waters in Devil’s Fork along the loop trail to the popular waterfall and pool.

The Devil’s Fork Loop and Straight Fork loop trails — both of which access Devil’s Bathtub — were temporarily closed on Monday due to flooding in that area.

The Duffield department and the Fort Blackmore Volunteer Fire Department have joint responsibility for any rescues in the Devil’s Bathtub area, Carter said, and that came into play at about 7:15 p.m. on Sunday when a hiker made it from the trail to a nearby road and flagged down a Virginia State Trooper.

Carter said the hiker told the trooper of a group of 12 hikers, including two children, and a dog stranded by high water. As rescuers arrived at the trailhead, they found that three groups of hikers were stranded — eight at the loop trail’s first crossing, another group of five at the trail’s second crossing and seven at the Devil’s Bathtub.

Earlier reports put the number of hikers at 27, Carter said, but that came from one group being counted twice.

“I saw that storm go down the mountain range yesterday and I thought that anyone out there had better be careful,” Carter said.

Carter said most of the hikers were brought out Sunday night and early Monday with the help of the Gate City and Norton fire departments, swift water rescue teams from the Appalachia and Bristol, Virginia, fire departments, Norton Rescue Squad and Black Diamond Search and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service and the Virginia State Police.

Carter said a State Police Med-Flight helicopter crew tried searching for the hikers, but the forest canopy blocked their view.

“It’s remote and rugged getting in there,” Carter said of the rescue efforts. “Rain is always a problem.”

Carter and other workers at the site said some of the hikers came from Ohio, Florida, West Virginia and Maryland.

“It doesn’t matter where they’re from, we’ll go in and get them,” Carter said.

One woman said she hurt her knee and the three groups all suffered from mild hypothermia, but there were no other reported injuries, Carter said.

“If you’re going (to the Devil’s Bathtub), check the weather and prepare for a night’s stay,” Carter said. “You don’t know what might happen.”

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