Whidbey SAR evacuates woman from Lopez Island

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Search and Rescue (SAR) evacuated an 88-year-old woman from Lopez Island Feb. 23, 2014, after she went into cardiac distress.

The SAR unit received an alert about the medical emergency late Sunday evening when commercial medical airlift were unable to conduct the medical evacuation due to commercial flight restrictions from low clouds and poor visibility from moderate rain and snowfall.

NAS Whidbey Island’s SAR unit has more robust capabilities, allowing them to fly in inclement weather conditions that can present more challenging conditions for aircrew.

These capabilities aided in the evacuation to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham, Wash.

“It was a lot darker in the vicinity of the San Juan Islands than we expected,” said Crew Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class David Scott. “Our searchlight and landing light were ineffective. When we turned them on, our night vision devices couldn’t compensate for the all of the light reflecting off of the moderate precipitation.”

“Fortunately, we were able to execute our plan for navigating around the islands and to St Joseph’s even with poor visibility and a low ceiling.”

The crew returned to the air station around 2:30 a.m.
The Navy SAR unit is based at NAS Whidbey Island specifically for search and rescue missions for the EA-6B and EA-18G aircraft assigned to the installation.

The base has an agreement to assist Washington state with medical evacuations as well as search and rescue activities. That agreement benefits civilian residents with rescue services while also providing real-time training for the base’s SAR personnel.