NAS Whidbey Island rescue helicopter airlifts injured skier off Mount Baker glacier

By DAVID RASBACH | The Bellingham Herald | Published: May 12, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — A helicopter search and rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island airlifted a 27-year-old Seattle woman off Mount Baker after she was injured in a skiing accident Saturday, May 9, near Coleman-Deming Glacier.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a group of skiers who were on the glacier, approximately 8,900 feet above sea level, Chief Deputy Kevin Hester told The Bellingham Herald in an email. One of the skiers had suffered a “catastrophic knee injury” and couldn’t get off the mountain Hester reported.

The sheriff’s office search and rescue team coordinated a response, and the naval helicopter responded, airlifted the injured skier off the glacier and transported her to Harborview Medical Center for treatment, according to Hester.

According to a release from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, the rescue occurred a little after 7 p.m. The helicopter landed to assess the situation and prepare the skier to be transported. It was then determined it would be best for the helicopter to take off and hoist her for transport rather than carry her over rough terrain.

The rescue was the first of three operations in three days by naval helicopter crews, the release stated, as they combined to rescue three skiers and medically evacuate a hospital patient. On Sunday, a crew rescued a 25-year-old skier with a broken leg and their companion off Mount Stuart, west of Seattle, and on Monday it transported a patient from Forks Hospital to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

So far this year, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island search and rescue crews have conducted 13 missions throughout Washington state, including four rescues, two searches and seven medical evacuations.

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