Search and Rescue (SAR) teams from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted three rescue missions and one search during this past 2018 Memorial Day weekend.
The first mission occurred near Winthrop on Goat Wall at an altitude of 2,600 ft. on Friday, May 25, when a 36-year-old woman suffered a compound ankle fracture. After a 40-minute transit, the crew arrived on scene and had two crewmembers rappel down with the litter to retrieve the injured hiker before transporting her to Harborview.
According to Lt. Andrew Boyle the senior mission commander, the Goat Wall rescue proved challenging due to the terrain, gusty wind conditions, and the patient's condition; she suffered a serious compound fracture. "The terrain the injured woman was on would have made it very dangerous for ground rescuers to get her out on a litter," said Boyle.
Boyle also praised his crew in the challenging conditions. "Great flying by Lt. Adam Laasko and superb positioning by Petty Officer Second Class Francisco Toledo counteracted the strong winds while hovering," he said. "Our ground team did an excellent job of handling this patient in an extremely timely manner given the steep nature of the terrain."
The next mission for NAS Whidbey Island's SAR team took them to Olympic Mountains south of Quilcene on Sunday morning, May 27, following a report of a fallen climber. After searching for 20 minutes the crew located the hiker who had fallen into a crevasse, along with three other companions. After pulling him out the crew transported him to Harborview.
On Monday, May 28, the crew's first mission of the day was a joint effort with the Coast Guard in conducting a search following a reported red flare in Elliot Bay. The search proved uneventful.
That evening the SAR crew received another call, this one from the Olympic Mountain Rescue team in the Olympic National Park for a patient suffering from severe abdominal pain, possibly sepsis. The SAR crew successfully hoisted the patient from a small clearing and transported him to Harborview.
NAS Whidbey Island SAR, has now conducted 13 total missions throughout Washington State this year, eight rescues six searches and one medical evacuations throughout the year. "I'm impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the crew to perform at such a high level which performing multiple missions throughout the weekend," said Lt. Cmdr. Dillon Jackson, the SAR Officer in Charge.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation (SAR/MEDEVAC) platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. Pursuant to the National SAR Plan of the United States, the unit may also be used for civil SAR/MEDEVAC needs to the fullest extent practicable on a non-interference basis with primary military duties according to applicable national directives, plans, guidelines and agreements; specifically, the unit may launch in response to tasking by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (based on a Washington State Memorandum of Understanding) for inland missions, and/or tasking by the United States Coast Guard for all other aeronautical and maritime regions, when other assets are unavailable.