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Whidbey SAR Crew Called Away from Community Event for Two Missions

09 August 2022


A Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island was participating in the Unity for Effort community event in Sequim on Saturday, August 6, when it received an alert for two injured hikers on Mt. Buckner in the North Cascades.
A Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island was participating in the Unity for Effort community event in Sequim on Saturday, August 6, when it received an alert for two injured hikers on Mt. Buckner in the North Cascades. 
The SAR crew received the alert just before 2:50 Saturday afternoon while attending a community outreach event in Sequim and were airborne by 3:00. After a brief stop at NAS Whidbey Island to re-configure the aircraft, the crew reached the reported location around 3:50 p.m.  The SAR crew searched for approximately 10 minutes before locating the hikers at an altitude of 8,400 ft. on a ledge similar in size to the helicopter rescue litter.
Due to the precarious nature of the terrain, a 45 degree cross slope on loose rocky soil surrounded by 50-60 degree cross slope of snow, the crew lowered the ground crew on a hoist. The crew climbed down to the survivors and packaged the survivors for recovery at 4:15 p.m.  One of the survivors had sustained minor injuries, while the other had a laceration to the back of the head and other injuries consistent with a slide down the mountain, as well as the onset of hypothermia due to blood loss. Both were transported to St. Josephs in Bellingham around 4:50 p.m.
After dropping the crew’s SAR medical personnel with the injured hikers at the hospital, the pilots flew to Bellingham International Airport to refuel. While on deck at the airport the crew received notification of a possible hang glider/parachute crash just south of Bellingham. The crew departed the airport, picked up the SAR medical personnel at St. Josephs, and proceeded to the reported accident location where they spotted a purple parachute in the trees. Unable to tell if someone was still attached to the parachute, the crew rappelled one of the crew to the ground see if he could spot someone in the parachute. While investigating the parachute, the crew received an update from the Whatcom Sheriff’s Department informing the crew that the there was an old parachute in that area.
NAS Whidbey Island SAR has conducted 23 missions this calendar year, which includes eight MEDEVACs, 12 rescues, and three searches.
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.

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