Navy to the rescue

Whidbey crew saves hiker


Staff reporter

A Search and Rescue helicopter from Whidbey Island Navy Air Station answered a call over the Fourth of July weekend to rescue a cold, wet hiker stranded on a ledge in the North Cascades.

North Cascades National Park Service called NAS Whidbey Island early July 5 when it became apparent they would not be able to rescue the hiker from his position on the ledge in the Thornton Lake area, according Whidbey Public Affairs Officer Kim Martin.

The hiker, Lou Barth from Connecticut, was able to call for help on his cell phone on the evening of July 4, setting the rescue in motion.

Barth was located near dusk, but it was too dark to attempt a rescue. Park crews dropped food, a flashlight, sleeping bag and radio to him that night.

The Navy launched a UH-3H Sea King helicopter at 6:30 a.m., but fog and poor weather delayed recovery until 2 p.m.

During the rescue Search and Rescue medical technician Eric Lembke, hospital corpsman second class, rappelled from the helicopter to Barth, and assisted him into the hoisting vest while suspended mid-air, since the ledge was not wide enough to hold two people.

The hiker and Lembke were then airlifted by rope about one mile before being lowered to the ground, and waiting park rangers.

Members of the rescue team from NAS Whidbey Island were: Lt. Chris Straw, pilot and helicopter aircraft commander; Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gibbons, pilot; Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Benjamin, aviation structural mechanic and crew chief; Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryder Buttrey, aviation electronics technician and swimmer; Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Lembke, SAR medical technician.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at or call 675-6611

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