FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky National Guard members with 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation rescued a hiker suffering a medical emergency Saturday at Natural Bridge State Park near Slade, Kentucky.
Guard members in a UH-60 Black Hawk hoisted the hiker aboard and transported her to Blue Grass Airport. Civilian rescuers then took her to University of Kentucky Medical Center for treatment.
She was released after treatment, family members told a television news station. They said she suffered seizures brought on by heat and stress.
Kentucky Soldiers worked alongside Wolfe County Search and Rescue (WCSR), Powell County Search and Rescue (PCSR), and Red River Gorge Special Treatment, Access and Rescue (Red STAR) to rescue the hiker.
This mission culminated over a year’s worth of training between the Kentucky Guard and WCSR centered on wilderness search and rescue.
“We worked with Wolfe County last year doing all kinds of search and rescue scenarios and extractions for this very mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lowe, a flight medic with the 2/238th. “We worked a lot in rural areas in Wolfe County’s terrain doing confined space hoists.”
The Black Hawk, configured for medical evacuation and internal patient care, was the first Black Hawk in Kentucky’s history to perform a hoist rescue mission. The flight crew used a high-performance rescue hoist and a Sked extraction device to lower Lowe to the cliff more than 100 feet below, and lift the patient into the helicopter for emergency medical treatment.
Powell County paramedic David Fifer was also rigged to accompany the patient on her flight to the University of Kentucky’s hospital, more than 60 miles away.
For more than five years, the 2/238th has assisted and trained alongside local first responders throughout Kentucky for emergency missions requiring critical care in the air.
“We are projecting our capabilities back toward the state by taking our specialized resources and making them available to the citizens of the commonwealth,” Lowe said.
According to WCSR, the years it took to develop the search and rescue program just paid off. The all-volunteer search and rescue team gratefully acknowledged the impact that training with the Kentucky Guard had on the mission and emphasized how prepared they were for this kind of emergency.
For Lowe, this was an opportunity to conduct an emergency mission he and his team train for every day. Since there are only three helicopters in the state of Kentucky that have the hoist capabilities used during this rescue mission, Lowe and his team are always ready to respond when duty calls.
“This is what medical evacuation does—whether it’s wartime, peacetime, anytime – what we do is patient care,” Lowe said. “Minimizing suffering is what we are built to do.”
The patient was listed stable for transport but in need of urgent medical care. The flight crew immediately turned the patient over to Lexington Emergency Medical Services at Bluegrass Airport.