SAR team rescues injured civilian

12 Jan 2001 | Sgt. Will Price

     Flying high over Beaufort County?s Broad River Dec. 15, the Air Station?s Search and Rescue was conducting training exercises just like any other day.

After two hours of practicing Confined Area Landings, the crew of six rescuemen were just about to pack it in and return to base when a call came over the radio.

Nearly 50 miles away an unidentified construction worker in Hilton Head had plummeted 25 feet to the ground sustaining serious injury to his back.

Paramedics were rushing him to Hilton Head Airport, but due to poor weather conditions and a low cloud ceiling the Savannah Life Flight rescue team could not make the rescue.

?We were just in the right place at the right time,? said HM3 Mark Kirkland, SAR Corpsman. ?Our capabilities allow us to fly through rougher weather conditions and at altitudes below 500 feet, if necessary.?

As the SAR pilots, Maj. John Reyes and Capt. Stewart Becker, made their approach to the Hilton Head Airport, the corpsmen and crew were quickly preparing the cabin for medevac.

The timing could not have been better as both the ambulance and SAR SeaKnight helicopter arrived simultaneously at the airport.

While Kirkland took down the patients? medevac information, corpsman HM3 Mike Capaccione issued flight equipment to the local paramedics.

Within minutes the SAR team was airborne and on its way to Savannah Medical Center.  However the rescue team still faced several obstacles. 

?Due to the seriousness of the victim?s back injury,? said Capt. Becker, ?the corpsmen advised we had to keep it real smooth or we could lose the victim.?

Cruising in at 120 knots, approximately135 miles per hour, crew chief Cpl. Charles Golay had another issue facing the crew, their fuel status.

?When we got the call, we were close to heading home,? said Golay. ?By the time we were heading into Savannah, we were down to vapors.?

Despite the challenges, the men of SAR delivered their patient safely to the Medical Center. 

After getting topped off with fuel at Hunter Army Airfield Savannah, Ga., the SAR team returned home weary, but proud.

?We are always available to assist the local Emergency Medical Service and fire stations,? said Reyes. ?It?s a great feeling contributing to the community.?

?It?s good to know that all our training does not go unutilized,? said HM3 Kirkland. ?We feel like football players who practice constantly, but never get into the big game.?

For one recovering construction worker, the SAR team not only got
into the game, but scored a game-winning touchdown.