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Hiker Found Lifeless in Below Zero Temperatures

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In an operation challenged by severe winter conditions, emergency personnel retrieved the body of 46-year-old hiker Nathan Bayless from a steep 700-foot cliff at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee.

Conducted in harsh weather conditions with temperatures plummeting to minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit, the operation proved to be a significant test for the rescue teams.

The search effort for Bayless started at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, after a call about a lost hiker. The initial clue came when members of the Piney Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) identified footprints in the snow leading into the forest near the park’s northern entrance.

The footprints led the search teams to a ridge line overlooking Cane Creek Gorge, a region marked by its steep, icy slopes and heavy snowfall, making the search and recovery operations more complex.

Before identifying Bayless’s body 700 feet beneath the ridge line, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) employed a helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared radar, aiding in the search.

A dedicated group of park rangers then tackled a demanding hour-long journey through the snow-covered landscape to reach the exact location.

Executing the recovery required specialized technical skills, incorporating numerous rope systems for climbing down and up the challenging terrain. The last rescuer reached the top of the cliff at 8 am the next morning, 17 hours after the report about the hiker.

During the operation, one of the rescue team members received treatment for mild hypothermia.

Kim Schofinski, a representative for Tennessee State Parks under the state Department of Environment and Conservation, confirmed the tragic incident.

This unfortunate event is part of a larger trend of winter storm-related emergencies engulfing Tennessee. The state’s Department of Health has reported a cumulative total of 17 fatalities due to the ongoing winter storm last week.

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