FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, rescued a 36-year-old female rock climber Sept. 20, near Priest Lake, Idaho, after she suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot.
The injured climber, Ammi Midstokke, had just summited the west side of Chimney Rock and was making her way across the Talus Fields on the afternoon of Sept. 19, when her leg got entrapped by a 1.5-ton boulder, pinning her down and causing a fracture to her foot.
Her friend, who was accompanying her, was able to call 911 at 5:30 p.m. prompting rescue efforts. An eight-person Priest Lake Search and Rescue ground party began a hike at 8:20 p.m. negotiating steep, narrow and rocky terrain finally reaching Midstokke at 12:49 a.m. The ground party used a web and pulley system to free her from the boulder in less than one hour. Her injuries were stabilized and she was kept comfortable as the situation was assessed.
It was determined that hiking her out would be too dangerous in the night time considering the remote location and the unforgiving nature of the terrain. Efforts went underway to contact the 36th Rescue Flight at Fairchild AFB.
At 7:10 a.m., a four-member crew from the 36th RQF and the 336th Training Support Squadron, 'Rescue 13,' was dispatched to the area in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.
They arrived on-scene at 7:45 a.m.
"A hover was the only possible way of extraction as the terrain was far too treacherous to land," said Capt. Josiah Hart, a 36th RQF co-pilot. "We made our initial approach, but the aircraft started to sink due to excess fuel. To get more power, we burned off some fuel for 25 minutes and re-engaged to a 30-foot hover over the scene.
The crew then lowered Maj. David Oldham, a 336th TRSS flight surgeon, down to Midstokke and the ground party. Oldham delivered water and prepared her for extraction on a Stokes Litter. At 8:35 a.m., Oldham signaled to 'Rescue 13' they were ready for extraction. Due to favorable winds, the approach was made to an 80-foot hover over the scene. The climber was hoisted out followed by Oldham. ‘Rescue 13’ then transported her to Sandpoint, Idaho, where she was transferred via-ambulance to Bonner General Hospital.
The Fairchild crew said they were happy to assist in the rescue as they have so many times in the past.
"Having this training and capability to perform rescue missions provides a valuable service to inland Northwest residents," Oldham said. "All the pieces fit together for this rescue. The ground team worked very hard through the night and when we arrived it was a seamless transfer from ground to air. The whole experience was very humbling."
Recovering from her injuries at home, Midstokke said she is extremely thankful for the Airmen rescuers.
"I feel extremely grateful for the Air Force crew rescuing me," she said. "They were all very competent and compassionate in a traumatic situation. The rescue itself was technically very challenging and the fact that the Air Force was able and willing to do this is testament to the professionalism of our U.S. military -- thank you for your commitment to service and everything you did to keep me safe and well."
This was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue.
"There are always people who will need help, and if we have the ability to help, we should," Hart said. "Without our capabilities, Ms. Midstokke may have had a difficult time being rescued. It was truly a team effort to rescue her on Saturday. We believe in our mission, and it is reflected in the Air Force Rescue motto 'That Others May Live.'"
The crew consisted of: Maj. David Oldham, a 336th TRSS flight surgeon; Capt. Erik Greendyke, a 36th RQF aircraft commander; Capt Josiah Hart, a 36th RQF co-pilot; and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Burnite, a 36th RQF special missions aviator.