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 on Golden Horn Ridge in Okanogan County, Washington on Sunday, July 31st, 2016.
The SAR alert crew received a call on Sunday evening to rescue a severely injured 60-year-old male in Okanogan County, expected to be at 8000 feet. The crew launched at 9:45 p.m. and arrived on scene 35 minutes later to begin their search. After only a couple of minutes, a member of the crew spotted three lights, approximately half a mile away and 1400 feet lower than the original datum. The crew conducted a couple of slow passes over the lights and confirmed it to be the location of the survivor.
Based on an evaluation of the area, the crew determined that there would be adequate space and power to land so they made an approach to a spot about 100 feet away from the location of the survivor at an altitude of 6600 feet. On deck, the corpsman and crewmen evaluated the patient and readied him for extraction by administering an IV and medications, putting him in a cervical collar, and stabilizing him in the litter. Once the patient was stabilized, everyone was loaded into the helicopter and the crew took off at 11:05 pm. The helicopter landed at Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle about 40 minutes later and the patient was transferred to higher care.
After the mission, the SAR Medical Technician, Hospital Corpsman First Class Wayne Papalski said, “It was a very dark night tonight, which made the flight a little more challenging but really helped us spot the rappellers’ lights with our Night Vision Goggles. I’m glad we were able to find the survivor quickly and stabilize him for transfer.”
This was the 17th rescue of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted six 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.