A man was flown by AirCare helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem Tuesday afternoon after he was injured at a swimming hole called the Devil’s Wash tub on Fall Creek in far western Wilkes County.
The victim was identified as Eric Burnett, a Wilkes resident, by one of two men with him when the incident occurred. The man said Burnett slipped on a rock and fell at the edge of the Devil’s Wash Tub, a deep hole below a waterfall on Fall Creek with large rock outcrops on either side.
Emergency personnel at the scene said Burnett had abrasions and a loss of sensation in his legs.
Wilkes Emergency Medical Services, the Wilkes Rescue Squad and Champion Fire Department were dispatched at about 2:05 p.m. Tuesday.
Emergency personnel placed Burnett in a metal Stokes basket and carried him from the west side of the creek (same side as Fall Creek Road) where he was injured to a trail on the east side. He was then carried several hundred yards on the trail, going upstream parallel to Fall Creek, and then across the creek again to reach a Wilkes EMS ambulance parked on Fall Creek Road.
There is a more direct and shorter trail to Fall Creek Road from near where Burnett fell, but it goes up a very steep and rocky slope. Hollar said he was preparing to set up a system with ropes and pulleys to help hoist the victim up this slope when the rescuers became aware of the trail with an easier grade on the other side of Fall Creek.
The Devil’s Wash Tub, which is on private property, also can be reached from a trail going downstream to houses, but that route was gated.
Champion Fire Chief Craig Hollar said that from the time emergency personnel arrived on the scene, it took about an hour and a half to get the victim from Fall Creek to the ambulance on Fall Creek Road.
Hollar said this included the time it took determining the best route for the carry-out. He was carried in the Stokes basket in an all-terrain vehicle part of the way
The ambulance transported Burnett about three miles to the AirCare helicopter, which had landed in a privately-owned field along the South Prong of Lewis Fork Creek and U.S. 421 West in the Maple Springs community.
Hollar and Wilkes EMS Director Tim Pennington said there was good teamwork among Wilkes EMS, Champion and Wilkes Rescue Squad personnel, totaling 20-25 people. Pennington said the victim’s injuries were not life-threatening.
The Wilkes EMS crew that responded was based at the agency’s Millers Creek substation.
Hollar said the last time Champion and other emergency personnel were dispatched to the Devil’s Washing Tub was in July 2016, when a man walking up the steep slope to Fall Creek Road after swimming there fell and had a stick jam up his nose. The stick broke, leaving a portion up his nose.