MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. - Dodging power lines, a Coast Guard a helicopter airlifted a man stranded on a small island in Redwood Creek near Orick last night.
The 45-year-old boater made it to the island after his boat capsized while gathering redwood logs in the creek. He yelled for help after making it to the island and his shouts were heard by people nearby a local RV park.
The Orick Fire Department and Humboldt County Sheriff's Office both responded and found the man standing on a small island in the middle of Redwood Creek. He started a small camp fire to stay warm and dry his wet clothes. Due to the strong current flowing through the creek swelled by recent storms, the first responders determined an airlift would be the safest and fastest way to rescue the man. At 11 p.m., a Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter launched from Air Station Humboldt Bay.
"One key to the safe rescue of this boater was the fact that the sheriff on the ground in Orick notified the flight crew of power lines crossing Redwood Creek directly over the island," said Lt. Todd Vorenkamp, the pilot on the helicopter. "Had we not known about those power lines before arriving overhead they would have posed a much greater danger to the helicopter and flight crew."
A sheriff deputy used a marine band radio to communicate directly with the helicopter crew and, once the helicopter was staged on scene, he had the man walk to the north end of the island away from the power lines.
"Being able to talk directly to the sheriff was important to the overall success and safety of the rescue mission," said the copilot, Lt.j.g. Brent Hardgrave.
The helicopter arrived on scene and lowered its rescue basket to the man and hoisted him to safety. Due to the presence and proximity of the power lines, Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Linder, the aircraft's flight mechanic prepared to perform the hoisting evolution while using his night vision goggles, and was able to keep tail of the aircraft clear of the wires. The aircraft then returned to the Coast Guard Air Station at Arcata Airport and delivered the man to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.
The Coast Guard recommends that all Lost Coast residents and visitors use extreme caution when recreating and working on the inland waterways of Northern California. Winter and spring runoff, high water levels and frigid water temperatures combine to make the rivers and streams in the area extremely hazardous. Also, all those spending time on or near the water should wear personal floatation devices and be equipped with emergency signaling devices and a marine band VHF radio to contact the Coast Guard or other emergency services.