JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing partnered with multiple civil search and rescue partners to rescue a hiker injured in a fall on May 26 near Kennicott, Alaska.
National Park Service contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at 6:20 p.m. on May 26 to notify them of the incident and request a hoist-capable aircraft be on standby. Snow conditions and steep terrain on Donoho Mountain made it impossible for the National Park Service A-Star helicopter to reach the injured hiker, and at 8:05 p.m. the NPS requested Air National Guard support.
“The patient lost footing and rolled hundreds of feet down a snow-covered slope near Donoho Peak in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve,” said Park Ranger and Incident Commander Stephens Harper. “The fall triggered a snow slide which then carried the patient over a cliff into a ravine.”
The AK RCC contacted the 176th Wing who dispatched a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II and a 212th Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team comprised of pararescue personnel.
The patient’s hiking partner was able to locate the patient, contact NPS via cell phone and provide cell phone GPS coordinates to support the multi-agency response effort.
Wrangell Mountain Air, a private charter company, spotted the patient, confirmed the patient’s location, and relayed GPS coordinates to the National Park Service.
First responders from Kennicott Wilderness Guides, who are also Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Search and Rescue Team members, hiked a couple of miles to the ravine. They provided emergency medical care while on the phone with National Park Service Alaska Region Medical Director, who is also an emergency room physician for Alaska Regional Hospital.
The NPS helicopter flew to the area but was unable to land safely, so they air-dropped medical supplies to the first responders and notified Harper of the need for a hoist and litter to safely move the patient off of the mountain.
“While on the phone with [the doctor], they heard the snow shifting above them and moved the patient to higher ground before a second snow slide traveled down the ravine,” said Harper.
Once on-scene, the Air National Guard pararescue team was hoisted down to the patient where they provided additional medical support and stabilized the patient for transport.
The patient was transported in the Pave Hawk to the McCarthy Airport where the patient was transloaded to a Guardian Flight AirMedCare air ambulance and taken to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.
This rescue involved coordination between multiple agencies, including the 176th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve Search and Rescue Team, National Park Service Fire Management in Fairbanks, National Park Service A-Star Helicopter, Wrangell Mountain Air, Guardian Flight, and Kennicott Wilderness Guides.
For this rescue, the 210th RQS, 211th RQS, 212th RQS and AKRCC were awarded one save.