Earlier this month, a search and rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington set out on a mission to recover a stranded hunter. According to the distress call, the hunter was already experiencing severe fatigue and dehydration. He had been stranded since the following day.
To make matters worse, the hunter wasn’t simply lost in the forest. No, he stood on a cliff face near Mount Constance in the Olympic National Forest near Seattle. Beneath him, a 70-foot drop stretched toward the next ledge. Needless to say, they had to work fast.
The air team received the call after a failed rescue from a ground team from Jefferson County Search and Rescue. Because of the difficult terrain surrounding the outdoorsman, they were unable to reach him on foot.
Upon their arrival, the SAR crew surveyed the scene, making an initial pass to determine the most effective means of rescue. They opted for a direct deployment, in which a crew member drops down from the helicopter while remaining connected to the vehicle via a hoist. They then secure the victim with a rescue harness and lift both the crewman and victim into the helicopter.
“The SAR pilot was able to get the rescue crewman into position next to the stranded hunter while it hovered about 80 ft. above ground,” the Navy said in a news release. “After placing a rescue strop around the man, they were able to hoist him aboard the helicopter where they began treating him for dehydration and fatigue.”
The crew immediately flew the hunter to Olympic Medical Center for further treatment. This rescue marked the 30th recovery mission completed by Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR this year alone.
Arctic Guardians Rescue Injured Alaskan Hunter
A similar rescue took place earlier that same week, this time (much) further north. After receiving a distress call from an injured hunter, Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing, also known as the Arctic Guardians, set out for a search and rescue.
Thankfully, the hunter and his hunting partner had brought a two-way satellite-communication device. As such, they were able to call for help themselves. This also allowed rescue crews to talk the partner through creating and applying an improvised tourniquet. In doing so, he prevented his friend from slowly bleeding out from a deep laceration.
As the brush surrounding the hunters prevented a landing, the Arctic Guardians used the direct deployment rescue tactic as well. According to Jeff Hamilton, AANG Senior Master Sgt., the hunting party’s expert preparation was what saved the injured man’s life.
“Having a satellite SOS device in the hunter’s extremely remote location was key to quickly requesting aid, determining the location, and sending help,” he explained in a news release. “Their use of a two-way satellite messenger meant medical advice could be passed to treat the injury. [It] was also key to a good outcome.”