Navy SAR recovers injured woman from Mt. Stuart

A Search and Rescue team member from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station lifts an injured woman from Mount Stuart Thursday. - Whidbey Island Naval Air Station photo
A Search and Rescue team member from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station lifts an injured woman from Mount Stuart Thursday.
— image credit: Whidbey Island Naval Air Station photo

NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – On Thursday, a Search and Rescue team from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station  assisted rescuers from Chelan County when they came to the aid of a 29-year-old woman who sustained severe injuries after falling approximately 400 hundred feet down a slope on Mt. Stuart on Wednesday.

NAS Whidbey’s Search and Rescue unit initially attempted to reach the injured woman on the night of June 4 after receiving notification from the national Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, or AFRCC.

The injured hiker was located at an altitude of approximately 8,900 ft. Severe winds prevented civilian rescue crews from making an earlier attempt to rescue the hiker and made conditions too hazardous for SAR as well.

As an interim measure, the SAR crew flew a civilian ground rescue crew to a lower, safer level on the mountain so they could hike up to the injured woman where they could provide emergency medical assistance and prepare her for a night spent on the mountain.

The AFRCC contacted NAS Whidbey for assistance again the next morning.

“The survivor was located approximately 90 miles away on the southeast side of the mountain, about 400 feet below the 9,500 foot summit,” said Lt. Cole Heller, the MH-60S Knighthawk Helicopter Aircraft Commander.

“The ground crew, dropped off the night prior, was on scene and had secured the survivor for pickup,” said Heller.

Once in a hover, crew chief Naval Aircrewman Helicopter 1st Class Zach Brunette moved the SAR crew into position and Naval Aircrewman Helicopter 2nd Class Cory Hedges was lowered via a hoist to the survivor.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Wayne Papalski assessed the climber's injuries and deemed them to be severe enough to take her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The victim sustained bruising, fractures, hypothermia and possibly internal cranial bleeding, according to a prepared statement released by NAS Whidbey.

After taking the injured woman to Harborview, the crew refueled at Boeing Field in Seattle then returned to Mt. Stuart to pick up the six-person rescue team and take them to the previous landing zone before returning to NAS Whidbey that afternoon.

“Everyone did a great job to make this happen,” said Heller. “I would like to extend a special thanks to our maintenance team for the quick turnaround on the bird from the previous night’s SAR.”

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