By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Cooper, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Det. Northwest
WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) — Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) Search and Rescue (SAR) rescued a 41-year-old male climber who fell from a cliff in the Colchuck Lake area of the Cascade Mountain Range, June 15.
SAR responded to the call after the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department could not extract the patient due to the terrain.
“It was a tough zone to go into because normally we like to get the crewman right on top of them,” said Lt. Erin Hittle, from Nyssa, Oregon, the NASWI SAR pilot who piloted the rescue. “It was a sheer face so we had to be out a little bit.”
Hittle expressed her happiness with the aircrew’s control on approaching the patient.
“These guys were great and very clear on the plan making sure we were all on the same page,” she said. “Doing it as safely, effectively and quickly as we possibly could but not endangering us as well.”
The SAR Sailors said they know their training is the key to being successful on these rescue operations.
“We’re constantly going out every day and trying to challenge ourselves in training,” said Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Adam Trump, from Palm Harbor, Florida. “That’s a direct correlation to what we’re actually seeing in the field when we do get called on a lot of these rescues.”
The NASWI SAR team plays an important role in the area.
“We do this job so we can make a direct impact,” said Hittle. “At the end of the day though, if we get to go out or anybody else does, it’s really just about the life that’s saved.”
Trump said he knows the positive impact the SAR team’s presence has on patients as they arrive on scene.
“They hear the rotor blades and you can definitely tell they’re happy to see us,” said Trump. “It’s not really something that hits you in the moment because training does take over.
“You’re there to do your job but it’s a good feeling after you execute a rescue and you come back and everyone’s safe on deck, the patient’s safe and you went out and did your job that day,” said Trump.
The patient suffered numerous injuries and was taken to Harbor Medical Center where he is expected to make a full recovery.