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McKinleyville, Calif. – Aircrews from Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay rescued four people approximately ten miles south of Mattole Beach on the Lost Coast Hiking Trail Thursday.
At 3:12 p.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office relayed a distress message from the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Center to Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay watchstanders. The text-type messages came from a Garmin Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) satellite messenger device.
Four individuals were reportedly hiking on a remote section of the Lost Coast trail, near the Randall Creek area, when one fell onto the ocean, sustaining a head injury, and was briefly pulled out to sea. The three remaining hikers entered to surf to assist their friend, where they sustained additional injuries and lost all of their hiking gear. All four made it back to shore, and despite their injuries and hypothermia were later able to recover one of their bags containing the satellite messenger and call for help.
No land units could easily access the remote site and Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of a Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew.
The aircrew arrived on scene at approximately 4:25 p.m., located the hikers, and lowered the rescue swimmer to assess their condition and prepare the patients for transport. The aircrew hoisted the two injured men and transported them to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Eureka.
"The hoist was challenging… being on the downwind side of the mountain range and the weight of the soaked survivors...Our environment is dynamic and [can change] on a dime. I always recommend everyone near or on the water be ready for the worst." –stated flight mechanic AET2 Peter Gaudet.
A second Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew responded and recovered the two remaining hikers and transported them to Sector Humboldt Bay in McKinleyville.
"The hikers' preparation of packing a [satellite messenger], and then luckily being able to recover it once their gear was swept away, is what alerted us to their distress. It gave our crew an exact GPS location to fly towards and greatly expedited their recovery...It was a very successful team effort!" –said the helicopter pilot, LTJG Rachel Seaman.
“[The injured man’s] friends were brave by fighting the waves and rocks to recover him. For as unlucky as those guys were after losing all of their gear during that process, they were extremely lucky being able to retrieve their GPS. That thing saved their lives! It will certainly be a birthday hiking trip they will all remember.” -Said rescue swimmer AST3 Sam Dannenbring