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Alleged ginseng hunt ends in rescue of 3
Bassett men were lost in mountains

Friday, October 18, 2013


Two of three Bassett men who lost their way while allegedly hunting herbs in Vesta were rescued Thursday after spending the night lost in steep, mountainous terrain, according to a news release from Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith.

The third man was located Wednesday night, the release said.

All three were charged with trespassing in connection with the incident, it said.

The situation began around 6:18 p.m. Wednesday, when the Patrick County 911 center received a cell phone call from a man who said he had gotten lost on the mountain while hunting for ginseng, according to the release.

Deputies and other first responders arrived in the area of 1200 Cloudbreak Road in Vesta to try to find the man. However, another man was found instead and was taken to Pioneer Hospital in Stuart, according to Smith.

Deputies learned from the man they found that two other people were lost, and Deputy Jason sa eventually spoke to one of the lost men via cell phone to try to determine his location, the release stated.

Dispatchers worked with Verizon Wireless Communications’ Global Positioning System (GPS) to pinpoint the caller’s location. However, several different locations were received until the signal was lost around 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to the release.

The search continued overnight Wednesday, and search-and-rescue teams from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management were summoned to help, the release stated.

Search teams found the two missing men around 10 a.m. Thursday near the Smith River Falls, about a half mile down a mountainside, the release stated.

The terrain was so steep that “we had to use a series of ropes and a harness to get one of the victims up the mountain,” Smith said. A team of about 20 people — including authorities and volunteers — worked in tandem to pull the man up, he said.

“It took a well-planned and coordinated effort from all of those involved to safely complete the rescue,” Smith said. “Our first responders and volunteers are second to none; they never let us down.”

Patrick County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Allen treated the two men for dehydration and provided other medical attention on the mountainside, the release stated. After their rescue, both men were taken to Pioneer Hospital, according to the release.

Smith alleged the three men trespassed on private property to hunt ginseng, which is a valuable root used in natural medicine.

Tony Wayne Craig, 38, whose address was listed only as Bassett; and Kenneth Darnell Mitchem, 46, and Kevin Russell East, 23, both of Blue Ridge Yacht Club Road, were charged with trespassing to hunt ginseng by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conservation officer Dustin Foley, the release stated.

In addition to those listed above, agencies and organizations that participated in the rescue effort included the Meadows of Dan Fire Department, Vesta Rescue Squad, Fairystone Fire Department, Woolwine Fire Department, Smith River Rescue Squad, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Worley Machine, and the Mountain Top Support Team, the release stated.


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