A Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) from Friday Harbor February 4 during inclement weather conditions. NAS Whidbey Island received notification at about 3 a.m. for a MEDEVAC from Friday Harbor for an 82-year old man who had suffered a significant head injury.
Visibility during the entire mission was seriously degraded due to the winter storm, which forced the crew to return toward Friday Harbor at one point during the transit towards St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham. At that point the crew decided to climb to a higher altitude which allowed sufficient visibility to continue the mission, arriving at St. Joseph's around 5 a.m.
Lt. Andrew Boyle, the mission commander, said the MEDEVAC was tough due to heavy snowfall, extremely poor visibility and strong winds, but that they were able to complete it successfully by following established risk management practices.
NAS Whidbey Island SAR has conducted three total missions throughout Washington State this year, including one search and two medical evacuations.
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.