Stranded hikers from flood waters found safe and sound on Eglin Reservation

January 21, 2010

Justin Hansen hugged by family after rescue.

Rapidly rising water created dire situation for two hikers in Walton County

Eglin Air Force Base Reservation, FL (January 21, 2010) –  Two Crestview men survive rapidly rising floodwaters from this morning’s heavy rainfall by climbing a tree on the Eglin Air Force Base Reservation.

At around seven o’clock this morning, 32-year-old Justin Hansen and his friend, 26-year-old Ray Coles Jr., were leaving their campsite when they found flash flood waters breaching the banks of several tributaries.

Within minutes, the water was up to their necks.  That is when the two friends began climbing trees to avoid being swept downstream.  Hansen and Coles used a cell phone to call 911.   The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center was then able to get a location by using the cell phone’s GPS and mapping feature.

The two men were planning a 45-mile hike along the Florida Nature Trail.  They were located in a densely wooded area about six-miles west of U.S. Highway 331, south of DeFuniak Springs.  Due to the rising waters, it was difficult for rescuers to get to the scene.  Freeport Fire Rescue, the Walton County Fire Rescue, and Eglin Air Force personnel assisted the Sheriff’s Office in rescuing the two men.  A Vertol systems company helicopter based in Destin also assisted in the search for the hikers.

Once out of the woods, emergency medical personnel stationed at the scene gave the two men a clean bill of health.  Both are veteran hikers, and said the overnight rainstorm dumping in excess of six-inches of rainfall which caused the creek to swell well beyond its banks causing the flash flood.

The men wanted to thank those who risked their own lives by assisting in the search.