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From the air, thermal imaging led rescuers to Fort Worth hiker lost for six days

Lost hiker Joshua McClatchy arrives at trailhead after rescue

Joshua McClatchy of Fort Worth, Texas was carried out of the woods and reunited with his family on June 8, 2019. He became lost on June 1, 2019, as he hiked on a trail near Mena, Arkansas.
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Joshua McClatchy of Fort Worth, Texas was carried out of the woods and reunited with his family on June 8, 2019. He became lost on June 1, 2019, as he hiked on a trail near Mena, Arkansas.

Lying on a basket stretcher carried by men with lights on bands around their heads, Joshua McClatchy lifted his arm and gripped his mother’s hand.

It was dark at the trailhead early Saturday in west Arkansas when the Fort Worth man emerged flat from the woods after six days astray and came into the view of his relatives.

“I thought I’d never see y’all again,” he said.

Later, before he was shifted to an ambulance, a rescuer reported McClatchy said the first thing he would like was a slushee, a flavored ice drink. Joshua then said a tiger’s blood snow cone sounded good.

The moments when McClatchy was rescued and reunited with his family followed a vast search for the man who became lost on a trail in the Ouachita National Forest as he hiked on June 1. The end of the rescue was recorded in a video released by his family.

Joshua McClatchy rescuers
Joshua McClatchy of Fort Worth with rescuers about 10 minutes after they reached the hiker, who was lost in the woods of west Arkansas. McClatchy family

McClatchy’s relatives said Tuesday that he has been released from a hospital and did not suffer serious injuries.

They released a statement in which he wrote about his gratitude.

McClatchy, 38, has not publicly described the experience. He was not ready to be interviewed, his family said.

McClatchy was spotted about 9 p.m. Friday through a thermal imaging camera on an Arkansas National Guard helicopter. Someone in the helicopter directed a team on the ground to him. They sprinted about 3 miles down a trail, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Before the team could reach McClatchy, the helicopter had to leave to refuel, losing for a time, anyone’s view of him. Twenty-five minutes later, the helicopter returned and a half hour after that, the lost hiker was again in the camera’s sight.

Rescuers scaled a steep ridge and reached McClatchy about 11:30 p.m. The trip off of the mountain took about 3 1/2 hours.

In his statement, McClatchy thanked his “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the search and rescue teams, and his family and friends.

“Finally, I want to thank anyone who has ushered kind thoughts, love, and prayers from around the world,” he wrote. “It is overwhelming and means so much to me.”

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