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Navy rescue team recovers injured hiker from Mount Baker

An injured hiker on Mount Baker was rescued by Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue team Saturday, the U.S. Navy has announced.

The 24-year-old man fell from a height of 100 feet and suffered chest injuries. He became the elite unit's first rescue of 2014, according to a Wednesday news release.

Low visibility early Saturday prevented the Navy team from launching until late Sunday morning. By that time, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office had located the severely injured hiker at an altitude of 4,500 feet.

Once the MH-60S Knighthawk’s crew of five was in the vicinity, sheriff’s department personnel on the ground helped guide the helicopter to the scene.

“The ground party gained visual contact on us and was able to vector us directly to their position,” said Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Lof, helicopter aircraft commander, who spotted them on the second pass.

Once in a hover, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Wayne Papalski rappelled with a medical kit and litter to the injured hiker’s position. He was then hoisted aboard the aircraft and flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Crew chief Naval Aircrewman Helicopter (AWS) 2nd Class Timothy Hawk ran the hoist, while AWS2 Melissa Dixon, second crewman, handled the belay line for a smooth and quick recovery.

“While en route to the hospital, the crewmen treated the survivor” said Lof.

The patient was at Harborview Medical Center and transferred to the care of an awaiting ambulance by 1 p.m.

The crew included copilot Lt. Cole Heller, who made his first rescue as a NAS Whidbey Island SAR pilot.

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