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Navy crew battles high winds, smoke to rescue man from jagged Cascade peak

Lake Stuart and Mount Stuart are seen in this U.S. government photo.

MOUNT STUART, Wash. - A Navy helicopter crew from Whidbey Island battled high winds, thick smoky haze and craggy terrain Sunday evening as they rescued a severely injured man from a steep mountainside in the Cascades where he had fallen.

The mission commander, Lt. Andrew Boyle, said the rescue was one of the most challenging he has been involved in during his time at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The harrowing drama unfolded at about 8 p.m. when the search-and-rescue team lifted off from the base and headed toward Mount Stuart in the Cascades.

They found the victim, a 64-year-old man, about 45 minutes later in a precarious spot surrounded by rugged terrain and jagged spires. The crew decided the best option was to directly hoist the victim into the helicopter.

A medic was lowered down and found that the victim had severe injuries, including a possible traumatic brain injury. He was unconscious and unresponsive.

The team then was able to quickly hoist the man up to the hovering helicopter and flew him directly to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“I can confidently say that because of our excellent teamwork as a crew, this mission was accomplished safely and expeditiously,” Boyle said.

This was the 28th rescue of the year for the Navy's Whidbey Island search-and-rescue team, which has also conducted five searches and 14 medical evacuation missions this year.

The Navy search-and-rescue unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

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