NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) team of five from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted two separate rescue missions in the Cascade Mountains on Saturday, April 16, 2016.
The crew initially launched at 5:20 p.m. in response to a call for a hiker who fell approximately 40-50 feet down a cliff. After communicating with the Okanogan Sheriff’s Department, the crew was able to easily find the hiker. After making several low and slow approaches to the scene, the crew determined the best course of action would be to rappel the SAR Medical Technician (SMT) and the Helicopter Inland Rescue Aircrewman (HIRA) to the survivor.
After conducting an assessment and evaluation of the survivor, the SMT and HIRA sent the hiker up via a rescue litter. After recovering the rescuers and survivor, the crew headed direct to Pangborn Memorial Airport for patient transfer to an awaiting ambulance. During the transfer, the crew received notification of a second distressed hiker in the Steven’s Pass area.
The crew was notified of a hiker with a possible broken foot by the Chelan County Fire Department. Having recognized the situation on scene as requiring all available power, the crew offloaded unnecessary equipment on board to reduce weight and create more room in the cabin. They located the survivor quickly and were able to land two of the aircraft wheels on deck to load the injured hiker and her companions aboard the helicopter. The crew then landed at a zone temporarily established for them by the Chelan County Fire Department for patient transport.
“The communications with the ground units worked out great for us today,” said SAR Rescue Swimmer Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Cory Hedges. “We were able to find both survivors pretty easily, which is not always the case with these missions.”
These were the fifth and sixth rescues of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted five Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions this year. In 2015, the unit launched on 19 MEDEVAC missions, 11 searches and seven rescues, resulting in 29 lives delivered to higher level care.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. The base also has an agreement to assist Washington State with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities.