WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. — A 50-year-old injured hiker in the North Cascades said he had to fend off bears with bear spray while awaiting a rescue, a Naval Air Station Whidbey Island spokesman said Tuesday.
NAS units rescued the hiker with a broken leg late Saturday night near Ross Lake in the North Cascades, NAS public affairs officer Mike Welding said.
The hiker had activated a Spot beacon at 5 p.m. earlier that evening at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, Welding said. Customs & Border Patrol dropped food and a medical kit to the injured hiker, but were unable to evacuate him as its helicopter didn’t have the necessary hoisting equipment, which led them to NAS Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue Unit, he said.
The SAR unit launched a MH-60S Knighthawk around 10:20 p.m.
“We quickly located the switchback trail down the mountain and the survivor’s strobe light at 11:02 p.m.,” said Navy Lt. Robert Merin, the SAR commander.
Hospital Corpsman First Class Wayne Papalski was lowered to the injured hiker. Papalski evaluated the injured man and determined he had a broken leg and dislocated shoulder. Naval Aircrewman Second Class Daniel Ismay lowered a rescue basket to Papalski and the injured hiker. After hoisting the man aboard the SAR helicopter, the crew flew him to St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham.
While en route to the hospital, Papalski administered pain medication and an IV. During the flight back, the injured hiker, currently on active duty with the Army, recalled he had to fend off bears with bear spray during his ordeal, Welding said.
The hiker’s name was not immediately released.