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AT Hiker Shot
Georgia Trails

In November, 2002, a 16 year-old Cartersville girl was accidentally shot while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Union County, Georgia.

Rachel Ferguson is one lucky person. A bullet fired from the rifle of Matthew Bryant struck the 16 year-old girl in the chest, barely missing her heart. Her 21 year-old assailant had fired blindly at a moving object in the bushes, near Jarrard Gap. Ferguson had been camping in the area along with 15 other members of her group.

Ferguson, of Cartersville, Georgia, was struck in the right arm. The .243 caliber bullet, fired from a distance of 220 feet traveled through her body, missing her heart by half-an-inch, then lodging in her collar-bone. Ferguson was flown by helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, where she was admitted in serious but stable condition. She underwent emergency surgery to correct a punctured lung and remove the bullet.

Union County police charged the assailant, Matthew Bryant, of nearby Suches, Georgia, with misusing a firearm, a felony that carries a maximum 10 year sentence, if convicted. He is being held on $10,000 bail.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Beth Brown confirmed that hunting is allowed in the area. The DNR recommends that hikers wear "bright colors and make noise," but also pointed out that hunters are responsible for knowing their target before firing.

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