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Contact: Penny Wagner, 360-565-3005
Olympic National Park has had 66 Search and Rescues (SARs) to date in 2019 with multiple incidents in the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness over the last two weeks. With a busy Labor Day weekend approaching, visitors are urged to plan ahead, hike smart, pack the Ten Essentials, and have an emergency plan. Consider learning CPR and basic wilderness first aid, especially if you are planning to hike in the backcountry.
On August 12 at 6:44 pm a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) was activated in the Dosewallips area of Olympic National Park approximately ten miles from the Dosewallips River road washout. Olympic National Park staff coordinated a response with Olympic Mountain Rescue (OMR) to make contact with the group in distress. The OMR team rode 6.5 miles on bicycles to the trailhead and then hiked 5 miles to meet the patient at 4:00 am on August 13. A 37-year-old male from Oregon was suffering from a medical emergency that left him unable to self-rescue.
The National Park Service exclusive-use contract helicopter was activated from North Cascades National Park and was on scene at 10:10 am. Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks share the dedicated short-haul rescue helicopter on contract for the summer season. The patient was transported by helicopter to Dosewallips State Park in Brinnon and then to definitive care by ambulance.
Olympic Mountain Rescue, a volunteer search and rescue organization that frequently partners with the park and is dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education, had 21 people involved with this incident. Public safety communication entities involved in the search and rescue include Olympic National Park Dispatch, Peninsula Communications, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Washington State Emergency Operations Center, Jeffcomm 911 Communications, North Cascades National Park Communication Center, Puget Sound Interagency Coordination Center, and Washington State Patrol Communications. Special thanks to Olympic Mountain Rescue, Brinnon Fire Department, East Jefferson Fire Rescue and Washington State Parks staff for their assistance with this search and rescue.
On August 16 at 12:06 pm park dispatch received a report of an injured backpacker near Pony Bridge, 2.9 miles from the Graves Creek Trailhead in the Quinault Valley. Park staff arrived on scene at 2:12 pm to assist the 66-year-old male who sustained numerous traumatic injuries when he lost his grip while descending by rope into the river canyon to collect water and fell an estimated 20 feet. The injured backpacker was carried out of the backcountry by a litter team to the Graves Creek Trailhead and declined transport upon arrival. Numerous park personnel were involved with this rescue.
That same day, at 2:40 pm, park dispatch received a report of an injured backpacker in the area of Glacier Meadows, near the base of Mount Olympus. Park personnel were dispatched to the scene and confirmed the male was deceased. The 65-year-old from Freeville, New York was part of a group on a backpacking trip. Members of the group reported the man had fallen subsequent to a suspected medical issue. The National Park Service exclusive-use contract helicopter was activated from North Cascades to recover the body. The decedent was transported to Fairchild Airport and transferred to the Jefferson County coroner.
Late Friday evening, August 23, Peninsula Communications received an emergency call requesting medical aid for a 10-year-old boy at Toleak Point who had sustained burns on his feet and leg. A park law enforcement ranger contacted Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound to request assistance. A Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles MH-65 rescue helicopter crew hoisted the boy and his mother into the helicopter at 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning and airlifted them to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles for further medical assistance. Toleak Point is a remote location on the South Coast of the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness. The National Park Service also partners and trains with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard to perform helicopter rescues in Olympic.
In addition to these incidents over the last couple weeks, park dispatch and Visitor and Resource Protection staff have handled multiple overdue and separated party reports along with many Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls.
The NPS utilizes helicopter search and rescue for those cases demanding this specialized resource. Far more ground-based searches and rescues occur at national parks every year than those in which helicopters are employed. Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks staff train together and have worked to hone their communication and interoperability. The parks’ exclusive use rescue helicopter is owned, piloted, and maintained by Helicopter Express, Inc. based in Chamblee, Georgia. This coverage is in addition to the park’s long-lived relationship with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard which also perform helicopter rescues in the park and serve as contingency resources.
For information about planning ahead and staying safe while visiting and hiking in national parks visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/trails/hiking-safety.htm.
For information on planning a backpacking trip in Olympic National Park check out the Wilderness Trip Planner guide at https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-trip-planner.htm.
Last updated: August 30, 2019