A hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in Snohomish County, ended in an airlift rescue for a woman – after she suddenly slipped and fell. It happened right near Suiattle Creek in Snohomish County, about 20 miles away from Glacier Peak.
Hikers Erica Rimlinger and Becky Metea, from New Hampshire and Maryland respectively, set off to hike a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail on August 14.
“We had been doing these water crossings for about eight days,” Rimlinger said. She said some were fairly complicated, but on an easy one – she slipped.
“I lost my footing and tried to find the next rock with my other foot, and found it with my face instead,” Rimlinger said. “I was in the water, face down, and I could feel my backpack coming over my head. And I was like oh boy, I’m going to drown in six inches of water,” she said.
But Rimlinger said she didn’t lose consciousness and was able to get up – but her wrist was broken.
“I know my hand is pointing in the wrong direction,” she said.
“And then she just started shaking, she was very, very cold,” Metea said. Metea helped strip off Rimlinger’s wet clothes and bundled her in her sleeping bag.
They had satellite phones but couldn’t get out a signal. Other hikers nearby were able to run ahead, find a clearing, and make the call for help.
“The the nearest road was closed and we were told not to expect rescue for probably the next day,” Rimlinger said.
But shortly after that, their satellite phone started buzzing.
“I started to get these messages on the Garmin. It said we sent a helicopter and it’ll be there in 15 minutes. As soon as I read that, I heard the chopper blades overhead,” Rimlinger said.
The arriving crew – the helicopter team with Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue. “I was shocked. Really shocked and grateful,” Rimlinger said.
The first rescue personnel to get lowered in was volunteer Oyvind Henningsen.
“I get hoist inserted on the bridge next to Erica,” Henningsen said. He’s the team coordinator who assess each helicopter rescue situation. He made the call that Erica needed to be airlifted out.
He brought in Richard Duncan, lead flight paramedic and also a volunteer.
“Just spoke with her and let her know she was going to be okay, and we were going to take care of her,” Duncan said.
They packed Rimlinger onto a stretcher, hooked it up to a rope, and pulled her into the helicopter, then flew her out of the North Cascades to Providence Hospital in Everett.
“They were amazing,” Rimlinger said.
Bill Quistorf, chief pilot for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, office, says calls for help in the backcountry are going up.
Last year in 2020, they had nearly 400 search and rescue calls, compared to about 260 the year before.
“So quite a drastic increase in the number of calls,” Quistorf said.
Adding to the challenges, now they have about 34 volunteers - which is actually a decrease from years prior.
“There’s a big recruitment out right now to increase the numbers,” Quistorf said. Volunteers have regular jobs, are provided training, and typically are on call three to five days a month.
They’re urging newer hikers to take caution and know your limits.
“Just charging out into the back country because of things they’ve seen on Instagram or Facebook can get them in deep water very, very quickly,” Duncan said.
Henningsen advises people to slowly build up their skills and learn from more experienced hikers, and join groups that have access to training.
Rimlinger is now is back home now in New Hampshire and healing.
She says she’s just grateful her tumble happened in a spot where this team could reach her.
“I can’t believe how lucky I was,” Rimlinger said. “They were extraordinary. Extraordinary,” she said.
She’s sharing her story to help highlight the work of Snohomish County’s volunteer helicopter rescue team, and is urging anyone who can to donate and support their life-saving work.
©2021 Cox Media Group