MOUNTAIN RESCUE! - Fairchild helicopter crew saves injured horseback rider in Idaho
By Scott King, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 21, 2013
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AETCNS) -- Airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base rescued a 66-year-old man July 21 near McCall, Idaho, after he was thrown from and kicked by his horse, severely injuring his hip and leg.
The victim, John Beeh of Weippe, Idaho, was on his way via horseback with his wife and another couple to camp at 20-Mile Lake when the incident occurred. For 26 agonizing hours he lay on a steep, rocky hillside while rescuers struggled to find a way to save him. He was on the lower edge of a bowl-shaped portion of the mountain just downhill from the lake, unreachable by car or all-terrain vehicle.
Neither local officials, nor a ground rescue team could extract Beeh. Running out of options, the Idaho County Sheriff's Office contacted the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall AFB, Fla., which contacted Fairchild's 36th Rescue Flight. Four Airmen were then dispatched to the area in an UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.
Once they arrived on scene, they were time constrained because of fuel and had to expedite the extraction.
"My co-pilot, Captain Tyler Rennell, did an excellent job providing a solid hover for the dual pickup," said Maj. Brent Golembiewski, aircraft commander. "We were low on fuel, and the actual extraction point was a small rocky area roughly [5-by-20] feet surrounded by 100-foot-tall dead pine trees ... not exactly easy to do. But, overall, it was a great mission, and I'm proud to be part of such an exceptional crew."
Once safely hovering, flight engineer Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Griego lowered independent duty medical technician Master Sgt. Joseph Brownell roughly 200 feet through a 10-by-10-foot window to Beeh.
"It was a very tight opening," Griego said. "Luckily we were able to lower Brownell down where the victim was already on a backboard. He re-evaluated Beeh's injuries, loaded him onto the stokes litter, and then attached himself with a harness to the litter for a dual pick up. This was my first save; I couldn't have done it without the expertise of my crew and medic."
Recovering at home from his injuries, Beeh said he is extremely grateful for the Fairchild crew.
"Heck yeah, I'm glad the Air Force showed up to help me," Beeh said. "I didn't know how everything was going to turn out. Now thanks to the Air Force, I'm still alive. They did one whale of a job!"
Georgia, his wife of 49 years, also is glad the Fairchild crew showed up.
"There was no other way he was going to get out of there," she said with more than a little relief in her tone. "I'm so glad they were able to help us through this awful experience. I was in awe at what they did for him. He owes them his life."
The rescue took nearly three hours from the time the 36th RQF received the call to the time the helicopter crew transported Beeh to St. Joseph Hospital in Lewiston, Idaho.
Beeh spent three days in the hospital, then moved back home to recover from a broken femur bone and other bumps and bruises.
This most recent rescue was the flight's 683rd.