Soldiers with the Army’s 16th Combat Aviation Brigade in Washington rescued two hikers Oct. 18, after one was injured while hiking near Mount Stuart, in Washington state’s Cascade Range.
After getting a call from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office about the stranded hikers, soldiers assigned to the Army’s Air Ambulance Detachment-Yakima were tasked with sending a helicopter capable of picking up people while hovering to retrieve them.
“At 11:53 a.m. a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for nearby Leavenworth. where the aircrew picked up two civilian search and rescue volunteers from Chelan County Mountain Rescue,” a press release from the Army shared.
“Upon receiving the call, we knew we’d need help from search and rescue volunteers,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matt Kravulski, the lead pilot said in the release. “We were able to pick them up about seven miles from the point where the injured hiker was located, but what would have taken them eight hours by ground took us less than ten minutes.”
The aircrew managed to land on the south face of the mountain, approximately 200 yards from the hikers.
“The injury wasn’t that serious, a broken arm, but due to the extreme terrain we didn’t know if they’d be able to make it back without us, so we returned to YTC for fuel and remained ready in case they decided evacuating the patient by air was the best course of action,” Kravulski said.
However, within about two hours of returning to base, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office asked for them to return and extract both the hikers and rescuers. Wind conditions had changed, though, and the aircrew couldn’t land. Chelan County Emergency Management volunteers had to lower the man about 600 feet to an area the aircrew could reach, a report from local news said.
“Fortunately,” Kravulski said, “the rescue team placed some white pieces of tape up to act as windsocks, and no one on our crew in the air believed it safe enough to attempt a landing.”
Hovering at about 8,000 feet in elevation, Yakima soldiers had to deploy their hoist four times to retrieve the search and rescue volunteers and the pair of hikers.
The injured hiker, a 28-year-old man, showed signs of shock in addition to the broken arm and was flown roughly 15 miles to Leavenworth, and transferred by ambulance to Cascade Medical Center. Without the aircrew, the hikers would have had to drive approximately 65 miles to reach the same hospital.
Based out of Yakima Training Center in Washington, the Army’s Air Ambulance Detachment regularly works hand-in-hand with the Washington State Emergency Operations Center, local sheriff departments, and civilian volunteers to rescue people in south-central Washington’s remote wilderness.
There are 33 personnel and four aircraft in the unit, the Army press release shared.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.