ROANOKE — A machete-wielding man attacked two hikers on the Appalachian Trail early Saturday, according to Wythe County authorities.
The conditions of the man and woman were not disclosed in a news release from the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office.
But according to Sheriff Keith Dunagan, they suffered serious knife wounds.
A man has been arrested, according to the news release. His name and the charges he faces were not disclosed.
The first sign of trouble came when two hikers reported to the Bland County Sheriff’s Office that they were threatened early Saturday morning by a man with a machete. The attack on the other two hikers apparently happened later.
Wythe County deputies entered the trail, which runs through western tip of the county, and made an arrest a short time later.
Such attacks on the trail are unusual.
“A.T. hikers are a strong and resilient family, but this rare tragedy shakes us all to our core,” said Andrew Downs, a Roanoke-based regional director for The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
“Our hiking family must come together to help those who are suffering from this unthinkable evil. The trail is a place of healing, of peace, and a community that can be relied on in this time of great need.”
A portion of the trail remains closed while an investigation continues. The Virginia State Police, the U.S. Forest Service and the FBI are cooperating with the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office.
Dunagan said authorities are trying to determine if anyone else was attacked. There were no such confirmed cases by late Saturday afternoon, but the sheriff said teams were still out on the trail.
None of the people involved in the incident had local addresses, Dunagan said. He declined to say if the two victims were being treated at a hospital or what their conditions were.
The trail was closed Saturday from Virginia 12 at the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area headquarters north to Virginia 42 near Groseclose — an approximately 24-mile stretch, according to a post from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on its Facebook page.
According to the post, the closure was “due to ongoing incidents under investigation by the U.S. Forest Service.”
Anyone with relevant information was urged to contact the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 223-6000.
Late Saturday, federal authorities were preparing to charge the suspect in the case, Dunagan said.
The Appalachian Trail, a scenic footpath that runs more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine, is administered by the National Park Service and the Forest Service and can fall under federal jurisdiction.
In 1981, a man and a woman from Maine were killed and buried in a shallow grave near a shelter on the trail in Giles County. She had been beaten and stabbed more than a dozen times; he was shot three times in the head.
Randall Lee Smith of Pearisburg was convicted in state court of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released on mandatory parole in 1996 and died 12 years later.
In 1988, a hiker from Blacksburg was fatally shot along the trail in the Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania. Her companion was wounded.
And in 1990, two hikers were shot and stabbed as they slept in a remote shelter on the trail about 18 miles from Harrisburg, Pa.