Search and Rescue teams from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island conducted two rescues Monday in Whatcom County.
The first rescue occurred late in the afternoon. Around 3:30 p.m., NAS Whidbey Island received notification from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center of a 77-year-old male suffering from crushing chest pain on Lower Lake Watson. After arriving on scene, the crew’s senior medical technician confirmed the patient was having a heart attack, and began administering on scene emergency care. The crew then flew the man to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.
The SAR crew’s mission commander, Lt. Mark Hlousek said speed was an important factor in this rescue. The cardiac nature of this call made it extremely important to get the patient off the mountain quickly,” he said. “There is no doubt it would have taken ground rescue units over 12 hours to hike this patient down to awaiting medical help.”
NAS Whidbey Island received its second notification later that evening. Just prior to 7:30 p.m. the base received notification of three people clinging to a fallen tree in the middle of the swift moving Nooksack River. Ground crews were already on scene but unable to approach them, nor was a rescue boat able to reach the stranded victims due to debris in the water. Once the helicopter was overhead a crewmember was lowered down via the rescue hoist and was able to extract the three quickly. The crew then flew them to emergency assistance personnel waiting in a nearby field.
That mission commander, Lt. Kellen Odom, said they were able to complete the mission quickly due to the high standards of their training, and praised his rescue crewman, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Wallman for completing an outstanding job today recovering the people from the rapid, frigid water.
These were the 24th and 25th rescues of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted four searches and 14 Medical Evacuation missions this year.