NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – The day after rescuing an injured 64-year-old hiker off Mount Stuart on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, another Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island evacuated his 60-year-old climbing partner Monday afternoon.
A helicopter from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office was unable to reach the man earlier due to environmental factors and aircraft power limitations. Additionally, the sheriff was unable to reach the man or get him to climb to their location due to his inexperience with technical climbing and exhaustion from staying overnight on the mountain.
SAR located the man at an altitude of approximately 8,500 ft. After adjusting for altitude and winds, the crew was able to lower a crewmember to the scene and extract him. They then flew him to his family at Pangborn.
According to Lt. Erin Hittle, the SAR mission commander, the mission was challenging due to altitude, low visibility and high temperatures. She praised her crew for their professionalism and the successful outcome, “Everyone did a great job today,” she said, “and we were rewarded by watching this family reunite.”
This was the 29th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted five searches and 14 Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions this year, totaling 55 lives delivered to a higher level of care.
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 AFRCC (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.