Hiker dies at popular NC mountain destination despite bystander attempts to save him

A hiker collapsed and died at a popular North Carolina mountain destination despite the efforts of bystanders and emergency workers to save him, officials said.

Kirk Lazar was hiking with his wife on the Juney Whank Falls Trail near the Deep Creek Campground and Picnic Area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park when he experienced cardiac distress late Thursday afternoon, according to a park news release.

The 70-year-old man from Evans, Ga., collapsed about 4 p.m., 100 yards from the trailhead, park officials said in Friday’s release.

“Bystanders immediately started CPR until Swain County EMS arrived and took over rescue efforts,” the release states.

Emergency responders were unable to revive Lazar, who died at about 4:45 p.m. where he collapsed, officials said.

The trail reaches an elevation of just over 2,000 feet and is rated “easy” by HikingintheSmokys.com.

Park rangers, Swain County EMS and Swain County sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene.

Lazar was the second hiker in two weeks to die after experiencing cardiac distress in the park.

On Aug. 9, a 58-year-old Tennessee man hiking with his brother in the park also went into cardiac distress and died, despite an hour-long attempt by his brother and park medics and rangers to revive him, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

Harold Thompson of Knoxville was hiking in the Injun Creek area toward Grapeyard Ridge Trail, officials said. The trail reaches an elevation of 2,540 feet and is rated moderately difficult, according to HikingintheSmokys.com.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.