Many more searches and rescues: First responders are busy

The sheriff’s office this year has had 330 calls for search and rescue in Snohomish County.

INDEX — With COVID-19 keeping everyone cooped up, trailheads and waterways have been congested as people look to escape to the outdoors. Crowds have packed some of the county’s hottest destinations, and Snohomish County Search and Rescue has been inundated with calls for help.

Since January 1, the sheriff’s office has responded to 330 calls for search and rescue in Snohomish County. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe said that in the same time span in 2019, the county received approximately 280 calls, and in the years prior it was closer to 200.

A pair of rescues in east Snohomish County on Aug. 27 are just two examples of the extraordinarily busy summer search-and-rescue teams are having.

At 10 a.m. that day, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue launched the helicopter SnoHawk 10 to extract a hiker that slipped on a log and seriously injured his shoulder near Mica Lake.

A few hours later, the crew was called to a popular climbing location outside Index to extract a woman who suffered head and possible spinal injuries in a fall.

Chief Pilot Bill Quistorf flew both rescue attempts last week, alongside Deputy Einar Espeland and three Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team volunteers. He said he has definitely seen a noticeable uptick in work this year.

“The biggest thing is just not to take any undue risk,” Quistrof said to those looking to traverse the county’s wilderness. Accidents happen, but he said being aware can keep you alive.

The pilot said high winds, tall trees, dangerous terrain and severe injuries heightened the difficulty of the response outside of Index.

“Index Town Wall presents some non-typical hazards that we normally don’t deal with in the mountains,” Quistorf said.

In a coordinated response with Sky Valley Fire, rescuers moved the injured climber 100 yards so she could safely be extracted. No update was available Friday on the climber’s condition.

In aerial rescue attempts, Quistorf said, he learned early on that urgency clouds decision making, so he and the crew step back, evaluate the situation and approach each rescue deliberately.

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office helicopters parked at the agency’s search-and-rescue headquarters near Snohomish. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office helicopters parked at the agency’s search-and-rescue headquarters near Snohomish. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

“If there had been any stronger winds, I wouldn’t be able to hold position overhead,” Quistorf said. “It really does take a lot of practice and experience to be able to pull that off and have the confidence in the aircraft.”

Snohomish County is one of four in the state with assets to perform backcountry, mountainous rescues in only a few hours, he said.

“Our county is really fortunate to have the capabilities we do have with the rescue helicopter and the smaller search helicopter,” Quistorf said.

For those planning to do backcountry hiking, Quistorf said, carrying a personal locator beacon can help rescuers reach you should disaster occur.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Paul McElhany points out how far the new building will extend past the current building at Northwest Fisheries Science Center's Mukilteo Research Station on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 in Mukilteo, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Oh, crab! NOAA’s Mukilteo waterfront fish lab won’t be rebuilt

Bids for a new Northwest Fisheries Science Center research station are too high. Are condos next?

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney during an interview at the sheriff’s department June 17, 2020. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Auditor denies Fortney recall group the extra time it seeks

He said he could extend the deadline for signature gathering if ordered by a court or the Governor.

State Patrol worker from Everett charged with attempted child rape

Trevor Smith worked as a commercial vehicle enforcement officer assigned inspecting school buses.

A pre-loaded syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine sits on the table for the next person in line during a vaccine clinic as South Pointe Assisted Living on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County to receive its largest shipment of vaccines

Even as case counts drop, researchers are finding a growing number of COVID variants in the state.

Austin Johnson, 26 years-old, trains on the Centennial Trail in Lake Stevens and is planning to do a 24-hour run to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
24 hours, 80 miles, $23k raised for mental health

Austin Johnson completes a 24-hour run along the Centennial Trail to raise money for suicide prevention.

Everett man identified after being found dead in creek

The cause of death for Renee Baltazar Romero remained under investigation Thursday.

Everett man found dead in creek near Lake Stevens

The man, 28, was reported missing Thursday. A neighbor found his body in Little Pilchuck Creek.

Autopsy shows Lake Stevens woman, 20, drowned Saturday

Anna M. Lopez was swimming when witnesses noticed she was not responsive, according to officials.

Joe Hempel swims off of the shore of Seawall Park on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 in Langley, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Scantily clad is the dress code for these cold rush swimmers

Immersed for 30 minutes in frigid water would kill most of us. It energizes these swimmers.

Most Read