NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) team of five from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted a rescue mission near Mt. Baker on Saturday, January 2, 2016.
Around 5 p.m., the crew received a call from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s department requesting assistance with the rescue of a 46-year-old female who broke her foot while snowshoeing near Galena Chain Lake to the northeast of Mount Baker. Based on the rapidly decreasing temperatures and the imminent threat of hypothermia, the helicopter crew launched to search for the injured hiker at 4200 feet. On scene, the crew moved into position and lowered the SAR Medical Technician (SMT) to assess and stabilize the patient.
Once the patient was stabilized, the crew moved back into a hover, lowered the Helicopter Inland Rescue Aircrewman (HIRA) to assist the SMT and then picked them all up via rescue basket. With everyone onboard, the SMT continued to monitor and treat the patient while they transited to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash. where she was transferred to higher care at around 7 p.m.
“I’m thankful we had such a focused team effort and were able to respond to the call so quickly tonight because the patient was definitely starting to become hypothermic,” said SAR Rescue Swimmer Naval Aircrewman Second Class Cory Hedges. The SAR Mission Commander, Lieutenant Jared Wada added, “Our maintenance department and crew did a great job tonight, as usual. Everyone was crucial in getting this patient the help she needed.”
This was the first rescue of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR. In 2015, the unit launched on 19 Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions, 11 searches and 7 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.