NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – Search and Rescue (SAR) crews from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted five separate missions within a six day period, including one search and four Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACs).
The first mission occurred during a daytime training flight on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. The morning SAR Alert crew was flying in the vicinity of the Dalles Bridge in Concrete, Wash., when they received notification of a possible person in the water on the Skagit River. The helicopter was immediately routed to the scene and began a search of the river. After approximately 40 minutes of searching, the crew was notified by the local sheriff that the mission was being called off. Although the mission was suspended by the sheriff, the collaboration between Federal, State, and local assets, including Sheriffs, Fire and Rescue, and the U.S. Border Patrol, was phenomenal.
The second mission occurred later that evening during a night training flight. The evening SAR Alert crew was notified of a MEDEVAC mission from Orcas Island while working to the east of the Air Station. The crew immediately turned back towards NAS Whidbey Island to pick up the SAR Medical Technician (SMT) and refuel the helicopter. The crew landed at the Orcas Island airport at 8:14 p.m. and the SMT met with the ambulance to assess the patient. Once everyone was loaded, the helicopter departed the airport at 8:36 p.m. and proceeded directly to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham for patient turnover.
"Although we started the night as a training flight in the mountains, our entire crew remained flexible and flawlessly transitioned into an actual mission to get this person the help he needed." said Naval Aircrewman First Class Zachary DelCorte.
Another SAR team conducted a third mission on Thursday, January 12. While returning home from a routine training exercise in the Olympic Mountains, the SAR crew of five received immediate tasking of a MEDEVAC from Friday Harbor to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham. The helicopter landed at Friday Harbor airport at 2:15 p.m. where the SMT and another aircrewman met with the ambulance to conduct the patient turnover. Everyone was loaded into the helicopter at 2:47 p.m. and the crew launched for the short flight to Bellingham. An ambulance arrived at the helipad as the helicopter was landing, and the patient was delivered to a higher level of care at 3:17 p.m.
The next two missions occurred on the evening of Tuesday, January 17. Both missions were MEDEVACs from Friday Harbor. The first of the evening launched just after 7:30 p.m. to pick up a patient suffering from cardiac distress. After the SMT conducted patient transfer the crew departed Friday Harbor and proceeded directly to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, where the patient was delivered to a higher level of care. The second mission of the evening launched at 1:30 a.m. to transport a patient suffering neurological symptoms due to a fractured spine. Once on deck the SMT conducted patient turnover and they were loaded into the aircraft. The helicopter departed Friday Harbor airport at 2:25 a.m. and proceeded directly to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle arriving there 26 minutes later.
Search and Rescue Mission Commander Lieutenant Kellen Odom said, “Despite the bumpy ride due to heavy winds and rain, both missions were seamless evolutions because of the excellent coordination between all parties.”
These were the first five missions of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR. In 2016, the unit conducted 51 missions including 14 MEDEVACS, 24 Rescues, and 13 Searches totaling 53 lives that were delivered to a higher level of 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 and the surrounding areas with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities if other assets are unavailable.
U.S Navy Photo by AWS1 Zachary Delcorte (January 11, 2017)
U.S. Navy Photo by AWSC Eric Deburkarte (January 12, 2017)