OIFR and Coast Guard work together in rescue on Obstruction Island

OIFR PRESS RELEASE: As crowds awaited the fireworks to begin in Eastsound on the 4th of July, OIFR received a 911 dispatch for a traumatic injury event on Obstruction Island with CPR in progress. Having already responded to multiple 911 calls on Orcas, the fire department mobilized again to respond to the emergency on Obstruction Island.

Battalion Chief Nick Kiniski led what can only be described as a remarkable and noble coordinated response. The patient had fallen approximately 100 feet down a steep embankment, landing on a rocky coastline. The initial response was complicated as the beach was not accessible by vehicle and required a marine response from the OIFR Marine Response and Transport (MRAT) team. Lieutenant 26, Geoff Nelson, responded in his personal boat to transport BC Kiniski and other OIFR members to the remote beach location.

According to Chief Scott Williams, "It is difficult to describe the challenges this situation presented to the OIFR responders."

The initial difficulty in reaching the patient was only the beginning of a complicated resuscitation and rescue. Occupants of Obstruction Island had performed CPR on the patient for an extended period of time.

OIFR members responded to find a critically injured patient and began providing treatment on the rocky beach, on a remote island, in the darkness of the night. Lack of proper lighting, poor radio reception communications, spotty cell phone communications, changing tides, obtaining necessary medical equipment, and safety for the patient were some of the challenging factors in coordinating this rescue.

A command post was established at the Lieberhaven Marina manned by FF Tony Simpson. He was able to maintain contact with the crews on Obstruction Island, the boat crew shuttling manpower and equipment, San Juan County Dispatch, San Juan County Medical Director, and the Coast Guard and relay vital information.

Ultimately, it was determined the only safe method of extricating the patient from the scene, was to enlist the aid of the US Coast Guard.

The USCG pilot on the rescue helicopter did an incredible job in maneuvering the rotor craft into position near the patient, in spite of the forest and rocky terrain. The Rescue Swimmer and was then lowered out of the helicopter, along with a basket, in order to transfer the patient and paramedic to the helicopter.

"We are fortunate to have the USCG and USN nearby to protect and provide emergency service to our islands," says Chief Williams.

Throughout the more than three-hour incident, the patient and all responders were subjected to cooler night temperatures, ocean water, sand, and uneven ground to maneuver on. A majority of that time was spent on that rocky coastline providing medical support to the patient in that austere environment.

The combined efforts of residents on Obstruction island who initially provided life-saving CPR, dispatchers, OIFR personnel, on-line medical direction from the county’s emergency physician and Medical Director, and the Coast Guard crew all helped to facilitate the critical emergency medical procedures needed to keep the patient in a stable but critical condition.

Chief Williams expressed his feelings of the incident by saying, "I am extremely proud of the of the Orcas Island Fire and Rescue responders who mobilized and took part in this incident. I also want to thank the other OIFR members who maintained watch on Orcas Island and waited to provide support to this community. Our Medical Director is very dedicated to San Juan County and continuously provides on-line medical support to our responders and the patients they are treating. The San Juan County Dispatch center is staffed with amazing individuals who work behind the scenes. Dispatch personnel provided a multitude of supportive actions ranging from over-the-phone CPR instruction to non-medical bystanders initially helping the patient to coordinating the radio traffic of multiple apparatus and personnel, calling local resources/hospitals, contacting and coordinating Coast Guard; all while , answering additional calls for 911 and managing the same needs for county wide for responders and law enforcement."

All of the volunteer and staff members of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue go above and beyond to serve their community. On this night, OIFR wishes to recognize the following responders who aided in this heroic rescue: Battalion Chief Paramedic Nick Kiniski, Hilary Canty, Alex Conrad, Jennifer Corbin, Dennis Dahl, Dean Dougherty, Cameron Fralick, Trent Johns, Selby Lighthill, Rosalyn Montgomery,Geoff Nelson, William Nutt, Shawn Simpson, Tony Simpson, and Mark O'Neill.



  • Vicky Palmer
    Vicky Palmer Monday, 17 September 2018 10:52 Comment Link

    The woman that fell is my friends sister and I have known this family a very long time. I am so grateful for the talented individuals that saved her life.

  • James Connell
    James Connell Saturday, 07 July 2018 16:49 Comment Link

    Bravo to the women and men who have chosen and prepared to do this important, life-saving work.


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