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 the High Steel Bridge in the Olympic Mountain Range on Thursday, 15 September, 2016.
The SAR alert crew received a call on Thursday night to assist the Mason County Sheriff’s Department in the recovery of four personnel stuck on a sand bar on the Skokomish River. The crew departed NAS Whidbey Island at 8:30 p.m. and arrived on scene less than an hour later. Once there, the crew established communications with the ground unit who talked them onto their location. After evaluating the area where the personnel were stranded, the crew determined that the only way to extract everyone would be to use the aircraft’s rescue hoist.
At 9:25 p.m., the crew made an approach to a high hover over the sand bar through the narrow, steep canyon. The Search and Rescue Medical Technician (SMT) and the Helicopter Inland Aircrewman (HIRA) rappelled down to the stranded personnel to evaluate them for injuries and prepare them for extraction. While they did this, the helicopter circled overhead to conserve fuel. After assessing that there were no immediate medical issues, the two crewmen called the helicopter in for the hoist pickup. The terrain and high trees made the recovery difficult, but the crew coordinated flawlessly and had everyone in the helicopter a mere 20 minutes after arriving on scene. With everyone onboard, the helicopter proceeded to Sanderson Airfield and dropped the four recovered personnel off with an awaiting ambulance.
“The mission was complex, having to maneuver the helicopter the way we did into the ravine, but the crew utilized excellent Crew Resource Management to get the four personnel out safely,” said Naval Aircrewmen Second Class Ricardo Rosado.
This was the 22nd rescue of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted nine searches and eight Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions this year. 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 and the surrounding areas with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities if other assets are unavailable.