NAS Whidbey Search and Rescue help hiker

A Search and Rescue team of five from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island conducted a rescue mission on Mount Stuart, Wash., on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016.

The SAR alert crew received a call on Saturday evening to rescue a severely injured 29-year-old female in Chelan County, expected to be at 8,800 feet.  The crew launched at 8:20 p.m. and arrived on scene 45 minutes later where they immediately spotted the survivor, thanks to her hiking party’s flashlights. After evaluating the area and noting the relatively high temperatures, the crew determined they would not initially have the power margin required to conduct the rescue. Based on this, the crew opted to land in a valley at a lower altitude to offload gear to make the helicopter as light as possible.

A couple minutes later, the crew took off again, weighing approximately 1,000 pounds less than before, and found that they now had an acceptable power margin for hovering. With limited time remaining to stay on station, the crew hovered about 100 feet above the survivor and lowered the Helicopter Inland Rescue Aircrewman to the ground. After quickly evaluating the survivor, the HIRA secured her into the rescue vest and the two were hoisted into the helicopter. The crew flew as quickly as possible toward Seattle and landed at Harborview Medical Center about 25 minutes later where the patient was transferred to higher care.

“Every aspect of this mission required a deliberate discussion of the risks involved by all members of the crew due to the precariousness of the survivor’s location,” said Lt. Adam Laakso, the SAR copilot who was also on his first mission with the unit, “Ultimately, the mission was a perfect example of a crew working together, utilizing an effective mixture of training and experience, in order to provide timely care to an individual in need.”

This was the 17th rescue of 2016 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and eight Medical Evacuation 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.