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Mother, Son Rescued from FATS Trails

web posted February 24, 2014

MERRIWETHER A 39-year-old Evans woman and her 10-year-old son were found after being reported missing for hours on the Forks Area Trail System (FATS) off Woodlawn Road Sunday evening. A massive search got underway as night fell and the temperatures began to fall. The first call came from four friends who were in the area and heard a woman yelling for help. They called Edgefield County 911 and were directed to meet authorities at the trailhead.

After Merriwether Firefighters, First Responders, Edgefield County Deputies and EMS arrived on the scene, dispatch was notified by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office that an Evans man had reported his wife and son missing saying they were supposed to be on the trails. The name he gave matched the owner of a Honda Pilot found in the parking lot by Deputies around 7 pm.

The Merriwether Fire Department, well trained in rescues on the rural and steep trails, launched three teams of four members each on three of the trails in the general area the woman was reportedly heard calling for help. Within the first hour of the search, three of the trails had been cleared with no sign of the mother and son. Teams would stop periodically calling out, "Fire Department", and never got a response. They returned and went to search three more of the trails.

The Sheriff's Office requested a helicopter from SLED equipped with cameras able to see heat signatures from a person's body through the night and tree cover just as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began arriving to help join in the search.

The woman's husband and other family members arrived at the scene while the search was underway. As the search continued past two hours, the woman's husband was obviously anxious and would pace alone in areas of the parking lot.

Shortly after 9 pm word came in that a DNR officer on a 4-wheeler had located the woman and her son and was heading back to the trailhead with them. Both were safe but thirsty. When they arrived at the command post there was an elated welcome by family members and hugs and handshakes to rescuers.

The woman stated she and her son rode a few miles on the trails (the Skinny) until they became blocked with all of the debris from the ice storm. They got off the trails and then got lost as night fell. They made their way to power lines that cross the trails and began calling for help. And that is where the DNR officer found them. 
The son was no worse for wear, though the mother did have several scratches and a small gash on her leg from trying to walk in the underbrush and briars underneath the power lines. Neither requested to be treated by EMS.

After the family was reunited and safely on their way home crews cleared the scene just before 10 pm.


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