NAS Whidbey search and rescue pulls body of climber from Mount St. Helens crater

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station search and rescue (SAR) assisted with search efforts for a 52-year old male climber who had fallen into the crater of Mount St. Helens early Monday afternoon.

According to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, the climber had fallen into the south rim of the crater at approximately 7,500 feet. The MH-60S Knighthawk and its crew of two pilots, two aircrew and one hospital corpsman were called in Monday evening when other rescue attempts were unsuccessful.

SAR launched at 8:36 p.m., but after three hours dealing with winds, weather and darkness, returned to base. They resumed the mission at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday despite clouds and winds on the mountain. After several hours’ search, they located the climber, who was found dead at the scene. After transporting the body to a landing zone identified by the Skamania Sheriff’s Office, the crew refueled the Knighthawk in Hillsboro, Ore., for the transit back to NAS Whidbey Island.

“We started this mission hoping to save a life,” said Cmdr. Peter Mehl, NAS Whidbey Island Operations Officer, in a news release. “Unfortunately, in this case, we were unsuccessful. This was a challenging mission due to weather and location and only serves to highlight the critical importance of the training provided to the brave members of our SAR crews.”

Although Navy SAR’s primary mission is to support water rescues during aviation operations, they regularly train and perform life-saving rescue missions in the mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest. Navy SAR and U.S. Coast Guard work together under the National Search and Rescue Plan to provide inland, coastal and high altitude search and rescue operations for people in life-threatening situations.

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