‘We didn’t want a break in her breathing:' Rare technique helps Coast Guard rescue hiker
PORT ANGELES – A U.S. Coast Guard crew rescued a 62-year-old hiker from the San Juan Islands late Wednesday evening.
The hiker, a Bellevue woman, was climbing to watch the fireworks on Obstruction Island when she fell, according to a family member.
Paramedics on scene had administered CPR on the woman for about 20 minutes before they were able to gain a slight pulse, according to Lt. Jake Marks, aircraft commander.
It was then the Coast Guard was called.
Lt. Marks said he knew when they were leaving the Port Angeles air station that the conditions would be difficult to navigate in.
“It’s a 100-foot cliff, it’s nighttime, and knowing Obstruction Island, it’s going to be pretty dark, it’s going to be pretty challenging,” said Lt. Marks.
Lt. Caleb Wadsworth, the pilot, said he was navigating around 50-100-foot trees, with one tree about eight feet in front of the nose of the helicopter as they were hovering.
“Vertical surface rescue off the side of a cliff - that’s actually something that we were not trained at night. The risks involved in that are pretty high,” said Lt. Wadsworth.
After seeing the hiker’s condition, the crew decided that their rescue swimmer, Dickey Nestler, would need to ascend with the hiker, while pumping air into her lungs.
“She wasn’t breathing on her own so really the only option was to come up with her, we didn’t want a break in her breathing at all,” said Dickey Nestler, the rescue swimmer.
Nestler and the hiker were attached to the same hoist – ascended close to 100 feet into the back of the helicopter.
“Every time I bagged her I could feel that it was going and getting into her lungs and efficient,” said Nestler.
Ryan Taylor, the flight mechanic, helped ensure the two avoided nearby trees and ascend in a smooth path.
“We had to bring them up together, which is not something we do on a regular basis, so that added quite a challenge,” said Taylor.
Lt. Marks said this was only the third tandem hoist he’s heard of from a Coast Guard rescue.
A paramedic was also hoisted to provide care aboard the helicopter.
The hiker was airlifted to the airport before being transported to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham before being transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
On Wednesday evening, a Harborview official said the hiker had upgraded from critical to serious condition.