Big Santeetlah – The Graham County Rescue Squad and U.S. Forest Service teamed up for a Christmas Day rescue of a family stranded in the snow at Swan Cabin in the Wolf Laurel section of Graham County.
A family of four – a husband, wife and two daughters, from Chicago – had decided to come to North Carolina to escape the cold weather at home.
A passerby saw the family at Swan Cabin on Christmas Eve and noted that they were not wearing suitable clothing, and did not seem prepared for the predicted cold and snow. He made his concerns known to Heath Emmons of the U.S. Forest Service.
Unknown to anyone at the time, the family had gone out Christmas Eve day for supplies. While they were
out, the rain had changed to snow and on their way back to the cabin, they got stuck in the snow on Wolf Laurel Road and had to walk back to the cabin.
Rescuers became worried about the family on Christmas Day after the arrival of snow and bitter cold. Tory Lynnes, Jeff Millsaps, Keith Eller, Jamie Hyde and Emmons started out from Santeetlah Gap around 11:30 a.m., to check on the family. The group of rescuers encountered numerous downed trees across roads, about 15 inches of snow and two inches of ice.
When they reached the cabin around 1 p.m., they found the family very cold, dressed in jogging pants, tennis shoes and wrapped in blankets. When asked if they wanted to go out with the rescuers, the wife quickly assured them that they did. The family was taken to a room at the Quality Inn in Robbinsville, arriving around 2 p.m.
Lynnes and Millsaps later returned to Wolf Laurel, to retrieve the stuck vehicle and the rest of the family’s belongings.