NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted two rescues this past weekend, one on Saturday June 3, the other on Sunday, June 4, 2017. The first rescue was in Olympic Mountains, the other on Mount Baker.
Saturday evening, two free climbers got stuck on a sheer cliff face near the Rocky Brook Waterfall. Navy assistance was requested through the Jefferson County Dispatch as other rescue assets who responded were unable to reach the climbers from the ground or able to hoist them by air.
Once NAS Whidbey Island’s SAR unit located the two men they were able to hoist one of the men aboard the hovering helicopter. The second man was in a more challenging area, requiring a SAR rescue crewmember to rappel to his position and secure him in a rescue strop for an in-flight transport. Both men were flown to a nearby field where the Jefferson County fire and rescue met them. Both climbers were uninjured.
The second rescue of the weekend occurred on Sunday afternoon. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s office requested support and reported that a 58-year old skier on Mount Baker fell into a 60’ crevasse at an approximate altitude of approximately 8,000 ft., sustaining serious injuries. Once they were reached the skier's location, the crew discovered that he was 1,000 ft. higher than initially reported.
Once in position overhead, crewmembers were inserted with a litter. The SAR Corpsman (medical technician) examined the injured skier and found he had injuries to his head, chest and spine. After hoisting him aboard the helicopter, the crew transported him to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.
These were the tenth and eleventh rescues of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted four searches and 13 Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions this year.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation (SAR/MEDEVAC) platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. Pursuant to the National SAR Plan of the United States, the unit may also be used for civil SAR/MEDEVAC needs to the fullest extent practicable on a non-interference basis with primary military duties according to applicable national directives, plans, guidelines and agreements; specifically, the unit may launch in response to tasking by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (based on a Washington State Memorandum of Understanding) for inland missions, and/or tasking by the United States Coast Guard for all other aeronautical and maritime regions, when other assets are unavailable.