NAS Whidbey Island SAR evacuates Orcas Island resident

A Search and Rescue team from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station medically evacuated a diabetic heart attack victim from Orcas Island to Bellingham International Airport for further follow on transportation to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham Tuesday, Nov. 25.
The poor weather conditions over the hospital with clouds below 100 feet above ground level forced the crew to land at the airport for patient hand off.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office contacted NAS Whidbey Island’s operations duty officer and requested the MEDEVAC due adverse weather conditions. The base’s SAR unit was the only available all-weather aerial rescue unit available in the region.
According to the Helicopter Aircraft Commander Lt. Cmdr. James Thompson, the SAR crew performed admirably in the less than ideal weather conditions.
“Considering the 200 foot overcast ceilings and the 1 to 1.5 mile visibility throughout the transit the crew did an exemplary job during the mission,” Thompson said. “Their meticulous attention to detail allowed a safe and successful flight during extremely challenging and rapidly changing weather conditions.”
NAS Whidbey Island SAR has launched on 25 search and rescue missions and 10 medical evacuations this year, resulting in 47 lives saved. Five of those missions have been from Orcas Island.
The Navy SAR unit is specifically based here for search and rescue missions 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 with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities.