NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Airmen from the 58th Rescue Squadron, 66th Rescue Squadron and the 57th Wing aided a hiker stranded in the mountains near Bishop, Calif., June 14.
The Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Sheriff’s Office contacted the 23rd Wing Command Post at Moody AFB, Ga., and told them the information about the lost hiker. The 58th RQS and 66th RQS were given the mission.
Two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters assigned to the 66th RQS departed with four crew members on each aircraft along with two 58th RQS pararescuemen per helicopter left Nellis AFB at approximately 7:20 a.m. on a one and a half hour flight to the last known area of the lost hiker.
The rescue team was faced with the difficult task of searching for the stranded hiker from the air in unfamiliar territory.
“We split our two-ship [helicopter formation] into east and west sectors,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Cooper, 414th Combat Training Squadron pilot flying with the 66th RQS, “The crew observed an orange jacket laid out on top of a flat rock in a perfectly flat fashion. We overflew, and then noticed a backpack nearby as well.”
Cooper said they elected to use the hoist to lower the PJs from the air to conduct a ground search due to the rugged terrain.
The pararescuemen found the hiker after conducting a ground search in the area.
“We hoisted in from 40-50 feet into a narrow ravine and climbed 100 meters up the mountain to reach the lost hiker,” said a 58th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “When we reached the lost hiker, we gave him water to hydrate and to help stabilize him before strop hoisting [a cradling system used to lift patients] him to the HH-60 Pave Hawk.”
After everyone was safely on board they flew the hiker to the Bishop airport, where an ambulance picked up the survivor and took him to a local hospital.
A pararescueman later said being able to take part in a rescue mission like this is rewarding because they are saving a life. He indicated that it is also satisfying for the team to be able to exercise their skills at home in addition to in a deployed environment.