The Coast Guard rescued an injured hiker on the south slope of the Olympic Mountain in Washington on Monday after Navy corpsmen spent the night with them on the mountain. The hiker, who reportedly suffered a broken ankle, was transported by a Coast Guard Air Station Astoria MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to the Olympia, Washington, airport where he was met by emergency medical services for further medical care.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received the request for support from the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center via the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center stating that a Navy medical ground crew, which had made it to the hiker the afternoon before, was requesting an expedited medevac due to a shortage of pain medications.
Sunday afternoon, a Navy helicopter crew from Navy Air Station Whidby Island, Washington, transported medical response personnel to the hiker, but due to fuel limitations and crew fatigue, the helicopter crew was forced to leave two Navy corpsmen overnight with the patient.
At 8:00 a.m., Monday, the Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived on scene but due to deteriorating weather and tree line obstacles, the helicopter refueled and returned to reevaluate the situation. At 10:00 a.m., the helicopter crew successfully hoisted the injured hiker without further complications.
“This case illustrates the importance of our partnerships with the Navy, Air Force and other first responders,” said Greg Merten, a search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “With their support, we were able to successfully hoist this man from the mountain and get him to the help he needed.”
A press release from Grays Harbor Fire District #2 added the coordinated response between 8 local and federal agencies led to the successful rescue of 57-year old Grays Harbor county man late Monday morning.
Grays Harbor E911 received a report at approximately 1:00 p.m. Sunday, July 17 for the report of a hiker with a broken lower leg in the Olympic National Park.
The report was made by fellow hikers who hiked back out from the wilderness area around the southern portion of Mount Hoquiam to their vehicles and then drove to the Wynoochee Dam Public Use are to make the call. The actual injury originally occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m. Olympic National Park staff filled logistics and incident management roles, while personnel from Grays Harbor Fire District 2 and Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area to make contact with the reporting hikers. The terrain in the area was described as extremely steep and rugged. It had taken the two hikers approximately an hour to travel three-quarters of a mile back to their vehicle on Forest Service Road 2270.
Initial efforts were made by a Naval Air Station Whidbey Island helicopter rescue crew to locate the patient. Unable to pinpoint their location due to low cloud cover over the area, Navy rescue personnel and one of the reporting hikers were placed on the ground to access the patient and companion hiker on foot.
Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Search and Rescue personnel also were making attempts to locate the subjects from the point where they went cross country off the 2270 road and headed north towards Mount Hoquiam.
Due to weather conditions creating poor visibility for helicopter crews, the decision was made to shelter the patient in place for night. Personnel from the Olympic Mountain Rescue team travelled to the patient and Navy rescuers after dark to bring them additional water, food and sleeping bags. All 5 of the responders remained with patient and his climbing companion throughout the night. Navy medics provided care for the patient and prepared him for transport the next day.
At 08:15 a.m. Monday morning, a second group of rescuers began the hike to the patient’s location to begin extraction by ground if weather did not improve. This group was comprised of Olympic Mountain Rescue, Thurston County Special Operations Rescue Team, National Park Service and Grays Harbor Fire District 2 personnel. As the ground crew made their way towards the shelter site, the weather began to improve providing a short window of opportunity for Coast Guard and Navy helicopters to rescue the patient and pick up rescuers.
Coast Guard Station Astoria helicopter crews transported the patient to the Olympia airport where he was transported by ambulance to St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.
The rescue of hiker would not been successful without the cooperation of all of the agencies. Incident command and coordination for this roughly 26-hour search and rescue mission was provided in partnership between Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department, Grays Harbor Fire District 2 and the Olympic National Park.