Civil Air Patrol’s National Cell Phone Forensics Team provided coordinates that led to the helicopter rescue Aug. 14 of a seriously injured hiker near Mount Washington, about 90 miles northeast of Eugene, Oregon.
The request for assistance – made to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center by Scott Lucas, search and rescue coordinator for the Oregon Department of Emergency Management – was assigned to the cellphone team just before noon local time.
Acting as a Total Force partner and official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol helps First Air Force rapidly respond to nonmilitary threats domestically in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.
Maj. John Schofield worked the mission with Lt. Col. Vic LaSala, his fellow CAP team member, supporting the data analysis. Maps of the area showed very rugged terrain with deep ravines and no landing area for a rescue helicopter, Schofield said.
A 911 emergency call had been received earlier in the morning, a Life Flight Network helicopter crew found no sign of the injured hiker at the scene, so it returned to its base. As Schofield and LaSala joined in the search effort, an Oregon Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter with a paramedic on board was dispatched to support the continuing search.
“The hiker could see and hear the Life Flight helo, but they couldn’t see him,” Schofield said. “Despite a smashed phone screen, the hiker managed to make another 911 call before his phone died, and that’s the one that we locked in on to guide the Black Hawk to the right area.
“We were able to get coordinates with very good accuracy, and that’s where the rescue team spotted the injured hiker.”
Lucas later reported that the hiker had injuries preventing his mobility. He was flown to a hospital in Bend, Oregon.
“Our Total Force airmen handle between 30 to 50 search and rescue incidents a day,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matt “Muddy” Mustain, AFRCC commander, First Air Force. “As part of a team effort with CAP, federal, state and local agencies, it’s rewarding to know we’re always making a difference.”
Maj. Margot Myers
Public Information Officer
National Cell Phone Forensics Team