Airmen Rescue Injured Hiker
By Scott King, AETCNS
/ Published January 01, 2015
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Four Air Education and Training Command Airmen here rescued a 36-year-old rock climber Sept. 20 near Priest Lake, Idaho, after she suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot.
Ammi Midstokke had just summited the west side of Chimney Rock and was making her way across the Talus Fields on the afternoon of Sept. 19 when her leg became trapped. A 1.5-ton boulder pinned her down, fracturing her foot.
Her climbing partner called 911 at 5:30 p.m. prompting rescue efforts. At 8:20 p.m., an eight-person search and rescue ground party from Priest Lake set out — negotiating steep, narrow and rocky terrain — and finally reached Midstokke at 12:49 a.m. the next day.
The ground rescue team used a web and pulley system to free the victim from the boulder in less than one hour. They then stabilized her injuries and assessed the situation.
They determined hiking her out would be too dangerous in the darkness of night, especially considering the remote location and the unforgiving nature of the terrain.
That’s when they contacted the 36th Rescue Flight at Fairchild.
At 7:10 a.m., a four-member crew from the 36th RQF and the 336th Training Support Squadron Rescue 13 was dispatched to the area in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.
They arrived on scene at 7:45 a.m.
“A hover was the only possible way of extraction as the terrain was far too treacherous to land,” said Capt. Josiah Hart, 36th RQF co-pilot. “We made our initial approach, but the aircraft started to sink due to excess fuel. To get more power, we burned off some fuel for 25 minutes and reengaged to a 30-foot hover over the scene.”
The crew then lowered Maj. David Oldham, 336th TRSS flight surgeon, down to treat Midstokke and prepare her for extraction on a Stokes litter. They also delivered water to the rescue party. At 8:35 a.m., Oldham signaled Rescue 13 that the victim was ready for extraction.
With favorable winds, the helicopter made an 80-foot hover over the scene. The aircrew hoisted Midstokke out, followed by Oldham. Rescue 13 then transported the victim to Sandpoint, Idaho, where she was transferred via-ambulance to Bonner General Hospital.
“Having this training and capability to perform rescue missions provides a valuable service to Inland Northwest residents,” Oldham said. “All the pieces fit together for this rescue. The ground team worked very hard through the night. When we arrived it was a seamless transfer from ground to air.”
The 36th RQF aircraft commander agreed.
“We, in the rescue community, push ourselves extremely hard in training to make sure we can do all we are capable of to help victims,” Capt. Erik Greendyke said of his squadron’s 688th rescue.
Recovering from her injuries at home, Midstokke said she is thankful for the Fairchild crew.
“I feel extremely grateful for the Air Force crew rescuing me,” she said. “They were all very competent and compassionate in a traumatic situation. The rescue itself was technically very challenging. The fact that the Air Force was able and willing to do this is testament to the professionalism of our U.S. military. Thank you for your commitment to service and everything you did to keep me safe and well!”