The number of Coast Guard medical evacuations in Alaska was unusually high this weekend, according to Coast Guard Spokesperson PA3 Lauren Dean.
Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak completed two medical evacuations on Friday and Saturday, one from Middle Sister Mountain in Kodiak and another from St. Paul Island.
Additionally, Air Station Sitka aircrews medevaced a 72-year-old woman from Chilkoot Pass on Saturday, and rescued an injured hiker who fell approximately 150 feet on Baranof Island on Friday.
“It comes down to the weather. People are getting out and doing all the summertime things,” Dean said.
“The coast guard encourages the use of personal locator beacons. The proper use of PLBs can save our crew hours of search time and can ultimately save your life in an emergency,” Dean said in a statement to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “We do encourage people to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, but exercise caution, plan ahead and be mindful of the quickly changing weather throughout Alaska, even during the summer months.”
“When time is of the essence, it’s important we can get to people as soon as possible,” Dean said.
On Friday, an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew medevaced two men, one of whom was reported injured, from Middle Sister Mountain on Kodiak.
“We were fortunate that the hunters thought ahead to relocate to a suitable hoisting area and had flashlights so we could easily make them out from a distance,” said Lt. Joe Chevalier, an Air Station Kodiak pilot. “Our crew was able to quickly respond and put into action the rescue procedures that we so often practice.”
The Jayhawk aircrew was launched early Friday morning in response to notification from Kodiak Police Department personnel of an injured hunter on Middle Sister Mountain in need of a medical evacuation due to a leg injury.
Both men were transferred to awaiting emergency medical services in Kodiak and were reported to have been stable upon transfer, according to the Coast Guard news release.
On Saturday, an Air Station Kodiak HC-130J Hercules crew medically evacuated an 82-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man reported suffering from heart and hip complications from St. Paul Island Clinic on St. Paul Island.
Both the husband and wife were transferred to awaiting medical personnel in Anchorage for further care. They were reported in stable condition upon transfer, according to a news release.
Coast Guard spokesperson Dean said the crew was launched to St. Paul because of inclement weather which prevented commercial services from conducting an evacuation. Weather in St. Paul was nine miles per hour winds, limited visibility and overcast skies, according to the news release.
Typical flight time from Kodiak to St. Paul is two hours, according to Dean. The HC-130J Hercules can fly for up to 12 hours at a time.
District 17 command center watchstanders received notification from the St. Paul Clinic around 1 a.m. on Saturday. Both husband and wife were suffering from medical complications requiring transport to higher medical care. District directed the launch of the Air Station Kodiak Hercules aircrew with the support of a rescue swimmer and a corpsman aboard to assist with medical concerns in-flight for both the man and woman, according to the release.
“Even in the summer in Alaska, the weather can change drastically, but our aircraft and personnel are well-equipped to support these types of missions when they arise,” said Lt. Lars Anderson, the aircraft commander on the case. “With vast distances covered and inclement weather, our crews faced challenges but were ultimately happy to get this couple to the care they needed.”