Crystal Lynn Ham, 25, of Elgin, South Carolina, was located by search crews at 6:11pm November 1st after an extensive three day search. She is currently recovering in a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Crystal was hypothermic, but conscious and able to confirm her identity when searchers located her about a mile from where her vehicle had been parked on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Crystal had been last seen on Tuesday morning, October 26th, by her father at his office. Crystal’s vehicle was seen parked at Bullhead Mountain Overlook near Milepost 234 on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Wednesday morning around 8:00am. As this overlook provides parking for an area where visitors frequently hike and camp overnight, the vehicle’s registration was not immediately checked. Upon running the registration of the vehicle on Saturday morning, Blue Ridge Park Rangers discovered that the owner, Crystal Ham, was listed as missing by her family.
Over the next three days, searchers and organizers from multiple cooperating agencies, including North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Highway Patrol, Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Laurel Springs, Cherry Lane, Glade Creek, Alleghany County Search and Rescue, Alleghany County Sheriff’s Department, Kershaw County, North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association, and North Carolina Project Saver Specialized Team searched a 1.25 mile radius from the location her vehicle was found. The search area was divided into segments, and those segments were prioritized and searched. Seven teams searched assigned areas on November 1st, some going out on multiple missions during the day as they searched the difficult terrain.
On the afternoon of November 1st, one of the search teams volunteered to search one last segment of the search area before dark. At 6:11pm, that search team located Crystal, alive but suffering from hypothermia, dehydration and exposure. The searchers began warming her, and her condition started to improve. Crystal was found on State Park land, approximately one mile downhill from where she had parked on the Parkway, in an area of steep terrain and tall trees, with the light quickly fading. At 9:45pm, a paramedic was able to hike in to her location and assess her condition, and determined that she was stable enough to stay the night. Due to the difficulty and risk associated with a helicopter rescue in steep terrain, a plan was developed to bring Crystal out of the area by helicopter at first light.
Thirteen searchers and rescuers spent the night with Crystal, keeping her warm and monitoring her condition. At approximately 8:30am, a helicopter from the North Carolina National Guard hoisted her out of the ravine she was in, along with one of the paramedics that had been treating her. She was then flown to a nearby landing zone near the Bluffs Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway where she was assessed by an ambulance crew before being transferred to a medical helicopter to be flown to Winston-Salem.
It is certainly due to the outstanding inter-agency cooperation and pre-planning, and the hard work of searchers and volunteers on the ground, that this search and rescue effort was a success.