Firefighters aid hikers along Appalachian Trail


WHITE COUNTY, Ga. – White Count Fire Services personnel spent a grueling Sunday delivering aid to three female hikers in two separate incidents near the Low Gap Shelter along the Appalachian Trail.

At 11:30 a.m., firefighters responded to a report of a female hiker suffering from exhaustion and dehydration just a few feet south of the Low Gap Shelter. On arrival, they discovered that it was a female hiker and her daughter.

The daughter tried to make her way to the parking area of Hog Pen but she became distressed about a mile before the parking area.  A team of three firefighters went in to her location and a second team went in to the Low Gap area for the mother.

The mother was located about one mile south of the shelter.  A Department of Natural Resources helicopter was used to lift her out to awaiting fire personnel at 801 Low Gap Road in Union County. She was treated on the scene for dehydration.

The daughter was walked out by the first team to their vehicle.  She was given water and her supplies were carried by fire personnel to her vehicle.  The mother was transported to her daughter’s location after extrication.

While in the process of cleaning up from that event, another call was received to go to Low Gap Shelter for a female with a possible fractured arm.  That patient was lifted by helicopter and then transported by Union General Ambulance to Union General Hospital.

This entire event kept firefighters on these incidents for approximately 10 hours.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy said, “I would like to commend, (Cleveland) Chief Norman Alexander and his team along with the 911 dispatch personnel for the quick response and team work in assisting these individuals to safety.”



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Dr. John Gowder Indicted in White County


Dr. John Michael Gowder

CLEVELAND, Ga. – The prognosis for Dr. John Michael Gowder, former CEO of Union General Hospital in Blairsville, became grave this week when he was indicted by a White County Grand Jury on 25 counts of fraudulently obtaining controlled substances.

As reported by Fetch Your News reporter Mark Smith, Gowder was indicted on similar charges in Towns and Union counties last month where police believe that he, his brother Dr. David Gowder, associate Dr. James Heaton and several Gowder family members were operating a pill mill and illegally distributing prescription pain killers like hydrocodone and oxycodone out of Union County.

11 Alive News reported back in March that court documents indicate Heaton wrote prescriptions for as many as 15,000 pills to the Gowders over a four-year period and that Michael Gowder filled them at pharmacies in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. According to testimony from investigators, both Michael Gowder and his brother David admitted being dependent on pain killers after taking them for back pain.

The defendants have maintained their innocence.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at



Joint Operation Nabs 6 in Prescription Drug Fraud including CEO of Union General Hospital

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Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the Union County Georgia Sheriff’s Office arrest of James Lanier Heaton, George David Gowder III, John Michael Gowder, Virginia Lou Harkins, Gail Gowder, and Jamie Harkins all who provided Blairsville Georgia addresses, for charges stemming from a joint investigation into prescription fraud.

FYN spoke with officials and the hospital confirms John Michael Gowder is the CEO of Union General.

Gowder  John Michael Gowder

The joint operation involved members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tactical Diversion Squad, the Union County Georgia Sheriff’s Office and the Cherokee County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office. Although the investigation is ongoing to date information has been discovered that would indicate that the ring was operating in Cherokee County North Carolina and may be facing charges here as well.

Sheriff Palmer stated “We enjoyed the opportunity to work with the agencies involved. Sheriff Mack Mason and his Office have been a tremendous ally as we are sending the message No longer can you deal drugs across county and state lines – We will hunt you down and prosecute you.”

Sheriff Palmer encourages any one that has information on this crime or any other to report it. To report crime in Cherokee County you can call the anonymous tip line at 828-837-1344 or email a tip at or call 911 if you observe a crime in progress.

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