Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR team conduct 3 mountain rescues in a weekend

Photo from NAS

During the weekend of Aug. 26 to Aug. 28, the Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island's Search and Rescue (SAR) team conducted three mountain rescues in north-central Washington, assisting hikers in challenging conditions including wildfire smoke and rugged terrain.

First Rescue: A head Injury in the Okanogan mountain range

On Saturday, Aug. 26, the SAR crew responded to a call for help from a 75-year-old man who had suffered a head injury while hiking near Upper Eagle Lake in the Okanogan Mountain range. The incident occurred at an elevation of approximately 7,600 feet above mean sea level (MSL). The crew encountered challenges, navigating through patches of wildfire smoke during their flight. However, they persevered and reached the east side of Glacier Mountain, where visibility improved, and they spotted the survivor waving a space blanket.

Around 5 p.m., the SAR crew successfully hoisted up their crew and the injured man for transport to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Second Rescue: Illness at Holman Pass

On Sunday night, Aug. 27, the SAR team received an alert regarding a 34-year-old woman who had fallen ill at Holman Pass on the east side of Ross Lake. The woman was located at an altitude of approximately 5,200 feet. Again, the crew had to navigate through low visibility caused by wildfire smoke. Once on the scene, they found the sick woman in a heavily forested area between two ridgelines.

At 11:45 p.m., the SAR crew inserted its rescue personnel via rappel. After assessing the survivor thoroughly and preparing her in a litter for hoisting into the helicopter, the SAR crew transported her to St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham, arriving just after 1 a.m.

Third Rescue: Ankle Injury on Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

On Aug. 28, NAS Whidbey Island's SAR team received a report about a 19-year-old woman who had suffered a broken ankle on the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail. The incident occurred at an elevation of 6,000 feet MSL, approximately two miles north of Mt. Baker.

The crew coordinated with the Whatcom County SAR coordinator, who provided updated medical information and a cellphone number for a group of hikers on the scene with the injured woman. The SAR team contacted the on-scene hikers and asked them to turn on lights to signal their location to the helicopter crew. Upon arrival just after 6 p.m., the crew immediately spotted the flashing lights from the hikers.

Just before 6:40 that evening, the SAR crew hoisted the patient and rescue team aboard for the flight to St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham, transferring her to hospital staff just before 7 p.m.

Photo from NAS

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR has been exceptionally active this calendar year, with a total of 32 missions, including one MEDEVAC, four searches, and 27 rescues.

The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island, serving as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for assigned personnel.