Snowy mountain hike turned potentially deadly for UNC-Charlotte student

Search for missing hikers including helicopter crews and nearly 100 ground-based rescuers.
Search for missing hikers including helicopter crews and nearly 100 ground-based rescuers. WBTV

One of the two stranded hikers rescued from the ice and snow in Haywood County over the weekend is a Charlottean and student at UNC-Charlotte, reported the Mountaineer in Haywood County.

Local rescuers from Charlotte and the Salisbury area were part of the effort to save David Crockett, 23, of Charlotte and a friend who were lost Friday in the Shining Rock Wilderness area in Haywood County.

The two were found late Saturday and airlifted to an area hospital. Their current condition was not known Monday.

Crockett is a student at UNC-Charlotte studying accounting and finance. His mother and two siblings live in Albemarle, reported the Mountaineer. Crockett works as coach of the Rockstar cheerleading squad from Gastonia, the Mountaineer reported. A Facebook page said he had been coaching for more than a decade and joined the team as director in 2015.

WSOC identified the second hiker as Sultan Alraddadi. It was unclear Monday where Alraddadi lives or if he, too, is a student.

The pair started hiking around noon on Thursday and got lost. Officials with the Haywood County Incident Management Team said in a statement that the two were found at about 5 p.m. Saturday by a State Highway Patrol helicopter using thermal imaging. The two hikers had to be airlifted out.

Crockett’s mom, Denise Crockett, told the Mountaineer she knew her son planned to go on a day hike Thursday with a friend, but she got nervous when the family hadn’t heard from him by evening. She continued trying to reach him until they got word Friday morning that her son had called 911 to report that he was lost in the Shining Rock Wilderness area, the Mountaineer reports.

Multiple agencies assisted with the search, including helicopter crews and nearly 100 ground-based rescuers. Officials said the search was hindered by poor cell phone connection and the hiker's phone going dead before it could be triangulated.

At least two inches of snow were already on the ground during the search, and traveling the roads became increasingly difficult Friday evening, WBTV reported. The hikers built a fire and used tree limbs for a shelter to keep warm, officials said.

“With below-zero temperatures expected tonight, time was running out,” N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said in a statement. “We are fortunate that all these resources were trained and available, and worked together to execute this extremely complicated rescue. The key to the success of this response was teamwork from all the responders cooperating for the best possible outcome.’’

Denise Crockett said her son is relatively new to hiking, having taken up the hobby just a few months ago. He has only been on a few small day hikes prior to this, she said. “I’m sure he wasn’t really prepared for the situation he found himself in,” she told the Mountaineer.