Coast Guard makes daring rescue of hiker who fell off cliff in San Juans

Coast Guard helicopter hoists injured hiker from Obstruction Island in the San Juan Islands on July 4, 2018 (Photo courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (KOMO) -- A hiker who fell 100 feet in the San Juan Islands is still clinging to life, thanks to a daring rescue by Port Angeles Coast Guard helicopter crews.

The Bellevue woman was hiking with her husband atop Obstruction Island on Wednesday to get a good view of the fireworks when she slipped and fell, according to a family member.

Sheriff's deputies called the Coast Guard around 10:30 p.m. asking for a helicopter rescue due to the hiker's extreme injures and her location amid treacherous terrain.

"Paramedics on the scene had administered CPR for approximately 20 minutes before gaining the slightest pulse,” said Lt. Jacob Marks, one of the two helicopter pilots involved in the response. “The helicopter arrived on scene and assessed the challenges of the confined cove, surrounded by 50 to 100 foot-tall trees and a steep sloping terrain.”

The pilots had to rely on night vision goggles to keep an eye on the terrain while a rescue swimmer was lowered among the cliffs to meet with the medics treating the woman. After regaining a pulse, they were still helping her breathe using a bag-valve mask, Marks said.

Pilots then made the decision to attempt a rare, extremely challenging hoist where they brought up both the victim and the rescue swimmer simultaneously in order to maintain her breathing.

“Remarkably the crew was able to execute this hoist in extremely challenging conditions while maintaining critical life support to the survivor,” Marks said, adding it's only the third time the Coast Guard had done this kind of hoist.

A paramedic was also hoisted into the chopper to maintain life support on board the helicopter until they could get her to a Bellingham Hospital. She was later transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition with severe head and back injuries.

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