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NAS Whidbey Island SAR Rescues Plane Crash Survivor in Olympic National Park

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10/02/17

NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) team of seven from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted a Search and Rescue operation for a crashed plane in the Olympic National Park on Friday, September 29 into Saturday, September 30.

The weekend SAR Alert crew initially received notification of an airplane crash with at least one survivor in the Olympic National Park just before midnight, on Friday, and prepared for an immediate launch.

The Navy team launched approximately 45 minutes later and arrived in the search area near Quilcene just after 1 a.m. After coordinating with the Jefferson County command post for Washington Air Search and Rescue the crew proceed to the crash site area. The survivor had been in communication with the command post via cell phone and was able to help guide the Navy crew to the crash site. Unfortunately the thick, dense foliage, cloud cover and lack of available light made conditions extremely challenging. After about an hour search, the crew had to reassess the situation and determined they needed to resume searching once daylight broke.

The NAS Whidbey Island SAR crew relaunched shortly after 5 a.m. and rendezvoused with an Olympic Mountain Rescue (OMR) team who had to physically move the lone survivor to an accessible area for rescue. The SAR crew was able to lift the injured man aboard the helicopter about 7 a.m. and flew him directly to Harborview Medical Center.

Lt. Kellen Odom, the SAR Mission Commander, said the mission was extremely challenging. “We had to fight the time of day, the environment, fatigue, dense foliage, and numerous other elements that made it difficult to locate the survivor.”

Odom also said the ground crew was instrumental in getting to and locating the survivor. Capt. Geoff Moore, NAS Whidbey Island’s commanding officer, said the interactions between SAR and local agencies are exceptional. “Working as one team with local agencies is key to the success of these rescues.”

 This was the 33rd rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted six searches and 14 Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACs) totaling 61 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 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.

 

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