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 Mount Adams, in the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, on Sunday, July 3rd, 2016.
The crew launched at 1:03 p.m. in response to a call for a 55-year-old-man who had fallen and suffered a leg injury while hiking at approximately 7,200 feet. It took an hour and 20 minutes to make it to the scene where the crew established communications with the United States Forest Service (USFS) Park Rangers who were on location with the injured man. After approximately 15 minutes of searching and talking to the Park Rangers, the crew found the injured hiker and began conducting power checks.
After establishing that there would be enough power to continue, the Crew Chief called the pilots into position along a shoulder of the mountain and rappelled the SAR Medical Technician (SMT) and the Helicopter Inland Rescue Aircrewman (HIRA) down to assess the condition of the survivor and prepare him for transfer. Once the SMT and HIRA were safely on the ground, the rest of the crew departed to land in a nearby clearing to conserve fuel and await the call for pick-up. On deck with the survivor, the SMT and HIRA repacked the open lower-leg fracture, stabilized it with a rigid splint, and then padded everything with dressings for the lift into the helicopter.
Once the SMT and HIRA called for pick-up, the Crew Chief again called the pilots into position for the hoist recoveries. The HIRA was hoisted up first, so he could help bring the survivor into the helicopter, due to the condition of the hiker’s leg. While the pilots held as steady hover as possible, the Crew Chief, HIRA, and SMT worked in concert to meticulously bring the hiker into the helicopter. Once everyone was back onboard, the crew departed the mountain for transit to Peace Health Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash., where they transferred the survivor to higher care. The crew then headed to Portland International Airport to refuel before making the journey back to NAS Whidbey Island.
“The entire crew did a great job of taking our time today to make sure that all of the right decisions were made,” said Hospital Corpsman First Class Wayne Papalski. “We analyzed every problem and were able to effectively rescue a hiker in need.”
This was the 11th rescue of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted three searches and seven 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.