NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. - During the on-going winter stormshitting the Western Washington area, Search and Rescue (SAR) teams from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted two Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACs) on the Olympic Peninsula February 9 and 11, 2019.
The first MEDEVAC occurred the afternoon of Saturday, February 9 from Neah Bay for an 84- year-old woman who fell and suffered serious injuries. The Navy crew picked the patient up at the Coast Guard station at Neah Bay and transferred the patient to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.
The second MEDEVAC occurred Monday afternoon, February 11, for an 85-year-old man from Sequim whose roof had collapsed from the weight of accumulated snow on his residence. This MEDEVAC was more difficult than the weekend evacuation due to poor visibility and the accumulation of snow in the area. After the crew arrived overhead at the scene, they had to reposition the aircraft as close to the ambulance as possible while maintaining safety. Once on the ground, the crew had to clear a paththrough the snow and carry the patient's gurney over the remaining snow to the helicopter for the flight to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Lt. Andrew Schnur, the copilot on the second MEDEVAC, said the reduced ceilings and visibility, combined with the knowledge that more snow was on the way, made this a challenging mission. In order to avoid obstacles, the crew flew over water to maintain visibility with the shoreline. "This mission may not have been possible if we had been required to stay overland," he said.
NAS Whidbey Island SAR has conducted five total missions throughout Washington State this year, including one search and four medical evacuations.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation (SAR/MEDEVAC) platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. Pursuant to the National SAR Plan of the United States, theunit may also be used for civil SAR/MEDEVAC needs to the fullest extent practicable on a non-interference basis with primary military dutiesaccording to applicable national directives, plans, guidelines and agreements; specifically, the unit may launch in response to tasking by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (based on a Washington State Memorandum of Understanding) for inland missions, and/or tasking by the United States Coast Guard for all other aeronautical and maritime regions, when otherassets are unavailable.