Team was searching for a fallen hiker
On Monday, May 4, 2020, Jackson County Emergency Management received a call at about 9 p.m., from Transylvania County regarding a person who had fallen into the water at the base of Whitewater Falls. The initial call went to Pickens County.
The Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad (GCRS) and other responders worked diligently to locate the victim until storms came in around 1 a.m., early morning on Tuesday, May 5. Due to safety concerns resulting from the weather and difficult terrain, the search was temporarily suspended.
The GCRS returned to the area at 9 a.m., on Tuesday, May 5. Jackson County Emergency Management, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office and Transylvania County Fire Department, a swift water rescue dive team from Henderson County, along with other public safety departments from surrounding areas were also on site to search for the subject.
The victim has been identified as 24-year-old male Chandler Manuel from Rockwell, N.C. His family has been notified. He was hiking the Foothills Trail with an undisclosed number of other hikers, one of which has been confirmed to be his brother. The Whitewater Falls area was closed to the public at the time, including a closed gate, parking lot and facilities. However, the hiking trail to below the falls was open.
During the search for Manuel, a rugged remote high line operations repelling team from the GCRS was searching for the victim. One of the longtime male members of the GCRS, Eldon Jamison, 71, of Yellow Mountain, fell from a rope during search operations. He did not survive the fall. His body was retrieved from the bottom of the falls at 4:15 p.m., by a National Guard N.C. Heart helicopter team. Ten (10) other GCRS search team members were below the falls, while eight others were on their way down to the falls. All 18 of these members survived safely.
Jamison is a 40+ year member of the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad. He is a widower, and father of three children (Amanda, Scottie, and Richard.) He held multiple offices within the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad including Captain and Assistant Captain. He is a former employee with the Glenville-Cashiers EMS. Jamison is one of six original employees of the Glenville-Cashiers EMS in 1984. Jamison is a member of Yellow Mountain Baptist Church.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) is investigating the incident, which is standard when a death occurs in the line of duty.
The body of missing hiker, Chandler Manuel, 24 of Rockwell, N.C., was located today, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, at the bottom of Whitewater Falls, where he was last seen on Monday, May 4. His body was extracted successfully by a National Guard N.C. Heart helicopter at 3:45 p.m. this afternoon.
Jackson County Emergency Services Director Todd Dillard and Jackson County Sheriff Chip Hall said in a joint statement, “We want to send a huge thank you out to all of the many emergency services agencies that responded to this search over the last three days. We couldn’t have done it without their support. Emergency service people are like family, and we lost one of ours this week. We are humbled by the response of our extended emergency services family from S.C., and all counties surrounding us here in Western N.C. Thank you.”