NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue (SAR) conducted two rescues in the Alpine Wilderness Area on Monday, August 21, 2023.
The first rescue mission, which occurred Monday morning, was for a 25-year-old woman who fell ill while hiking along Waptus Lake at an elevation of approximately 3,200 ft. mean sea level.
During the flight to her reported location, the crew determined that their visibility was compromised due to smoke from forest fires in the northern Cascade Mountains. After diverting south then flying east along state Highway 90 toward Cle Elum Lake, the crew reached the ailing hiker and her companions about an hour after departing the air station.
The SAR crew inserted two medical technicians about 100 yards from the hiking party’s location then landed to conserve fuel. Upon reaching the patient, the rescue personnel assessed and prepared the ailing victim to receive fluids. Just after 11:50 the SAR crew began the extraction of the patient and the rescue team via hoist. The SAR team then flew her to Harborview Medical Center and turned her over to hospital personnel at 12:30 p.m.
Later that evening, the SAR crew received a report for a 65-year-old man who suffered a head injury in the Alpine Lakes area. Prior to leaving the air station around 7:30 p.m. the SAR crew contacted the Kittitas County Sheriff's Deputy who was managing the rescue efforts. During their preliminary conversations the crew learned that smoke that was prevalent during the earlier mission had dissipated.
After finding a suitable location to minimize any rotor downwash during the rescue, the SAR team inserted two rescue personnel about 200 yards away from the injured hiker. The injured man and rescue team were hoisted aboard the SAR aircraft around 8:40 that evening and flew directly to Harborview where they landed about a half hour later.
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR has conducted 28 missions this calendar year, which includes 1 MEDEVAC, 4 searches and 23 rescues.
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.