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2013 Pacific Northwest Awardees

At the upcoming Pacific Northwest Awards Dinner on Sept. 12 in Seattle, Washington, the flight crews of CG-6035 and CG-6013 will be recognized for extraordinary heroic action during the successful nighttime rescue last year of a critically injured hiker on Mount Rainier, Washington. During the daunting 11-hour rescue, the aircrews displayed superior operational risk management, exacting crew coordination and superior airmanship.

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The awardees are: LCDR Nathan E. Coulter, LCDR Joshua B. Nelson, LT Benjamin J. Berman, LT Leo C. Lake, AST1 Obrian Starr-Hollow, AMT2 Jonathan P. Randolph, AMT2 James W. Rizer, and AST3 Tyler J. Gaenzle


The 2013 awardees of the Pacific Northwest Tribute Dinner with the rescued hiker, Ben Jylkka. (Not pictured is Randolph).

While returning from a successful seaside cliff rescue, the crew of CG- 6013 was diverted to locate and evacuate a severely injured hiker that ground crews were unable to reach due to treacherous terrain. The crew of CG-6013 expertly navigated over unfamiliar mountainous geography to locate the injured hiker, who was stranded at a high-elevation, inaccessible ravine.

Despite the high altitude, numerous nearby trees, and approaching nighttime conditions, the aircrew skillfully lowered the rescue swimmers and vital medical equipment to the hiker.

Running low on fuel, the crew of CG-6013 departed the scene leaving the rescue swimmers to climb down the steep, snowy mountainside, providing lifesaving medical care to the hiker. This required the swimmers to reach the victim by belaying one another down 250 feet into a steep ravine, covered in ice and snow.

The only illumination available to the swimmers was a head lamp and flashlight, which would soon be shattered during an uncontrolled 15-foot free-fall into the ravine. Recognizing the need for additional aerial rescue capability, the crew of CG-6035 launched from Astoria, Oregon to relieve the CG-6013, arriving on-scene after nightfall and with rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.

In order to conserve fuel while waiting for the swimmers to prepare the victim for hoist, the crew of CG-6035 landed at a small Mount Rainer picnic area. After determining the safest location for the hoist was toward the bottom of the ravine, the rescue swimmers put the hiker in a rescue litter and proceeded with a demanding 200-foot nighttime climb down the mountain. This physically grueling descent took two hours down the extreme dangers of the unforgiving, 50-degree icy mountain slope.

The descent was difficult, but the hardest part remained: hoisting the injured hiker and the two rescue swimmers back into the helicopter. Once the rescue swimmers were ready perform the hoist from the 6,400 foot elevation, the helicopter crew navigated through complete darkness and deteriorating visibility to execute three hoists in the narrow, obstacle-laden ravine while hovering "nose-into" the mountain with a limited emergency fly-out route.

Recognizing this high altitude hoist would be extremely risky to the hiker, the flight mechanic devised an innovative dual trail-line technique to prevent the litter from spinning uncontrollably as the patient and rescue swimmers were hoisted 180 feet from the mountain side. Closely monitoring their dwindling fuel reserves, the aircrew was able to skillfully navigate through the Cascade Mountains and safely deliver the patient to awaiting emergency medical personnel.

The courage, judgment, and devotion to duty of these crews are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.


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