Vandenberg aircrew saves stranded hiker
By Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 11, 2007
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A standby aircrew from the 76th Helicopter Squadron at Vandenberg participated in an emergency rescue mission several miles west of the San Francisco Airport, Calif., on July 8.
A four-person crew was recalled at approximately 2:50 a.m. to launch on a rescue mission for a trapped 35-year-old hiker who had fallen off a trail in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
San Francisco County sheriff's department search and rescue teams had been attempting to reach the hiker's location on foot since the evening of July 7, but were unable due to steep terrain.
The 4-person aircrew, consisting of Col. Joseph Anderson, flight surgeon; Capt. Sean Roehrs, the aircraft commander; 1st Lt. Devin Sperling, the co-pilot; and Airman 1st Class Erik McCarrick, flight engineer, launched their mission at approximately 4 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 6:15 a.m.
Because of thick fog over the survivor, the crew, already low on gas, landed in a parking lot at the park and discussed the pick-up with the sheriff's department.
Due to the critical fuel situation, the crew took off and flew 3.5 miles to San Francisco International Airport to refuel.
"This was the first time any Vandenberg helicopter crew landed at a class B airport," Captain Roehrs said.
The crew then took off on a full tank, returned to the scene, found the fog had lifted and moved in to pick up the hiker.
"After the fog lifted, the helicopter settled into a 100 foot hover, about 50 feet from the precarious cliff ledge," Lieutenant Sperling said. "Colonel Anderson descended from the Huey on a hoist, called a forest penetrator, and although there was not enough room on the ledge for him to get off the hoist, he was able to secure the hiker to the penetrator and prepare for a double pick-up."
The success of the double pick-up was shared by the entire crew.
"A successful rescue is the most rewarding mission that we get to fly," Captain Roehrs said. "Superb crew coordination was the key to our success. This was the rest of crew's first rescue mission we had to deal with a whole lot of weather and fuel issues and the crew performed flawlessly."
The hiker was taken to the base of the cliff and transferred to waiting medics.