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Fairchild Airmen Rescue Idaho Mountain Biker
Imagine that: there was a ROCK in the trail!
Fairchild Airmen Rescue Idaho Biker
August 22, 2011
Air Force News|by Scott King
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airmen from Fairchild Air Force
Base, Wash., rescued a 52-year-old female mountain biker Aug. 17 near
Thompson Pass, Idaho, after she flipped over her handlebars and
injured her ribs and back.
The victim, Paulette Kirby, was on a single-track mountain bike trail
participating in the six-day Idaho Expedition Race when she hit a rock
and lost control. She was on the side of a mountain with high terrain
on all sides, unreachable by car or all-terrain vehicle.
Four Airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight responded to the call from the
Shoshone County, Idaho, sheriff's office in a UH-1N Iroquois
Once they arrived in the area, the sheriff's department staff had to
use signal mirrors to maneuver the crew to the exact location of the
scene due to the dense tree growth. During their approach, winds
became an issue, so it wasn't until their third approach that they
were successfully hovering over the victim.
Tech. Sgt. Steven Perez, the flight engineer, then lowered independent
duty medical technician Tech. Sgt. Joseph Brownell 240 feet down to
"Because of the extent of her injuries, she was unable to lie flat in
the Stokes litter, so I had the crew lower a Kendrick Extrication
Device," Brownell said. "A KED is a semi-rigid brace that secures the
head, neck and torso in an anatomically neutral position. It helped to
reduce the possibility of additional injuries to her during
extrication. I then put a C-collar and the KED on her and loaded her
onto the Stokes. "
Brownell then called "ready for pickup" and notified the rest of the
crew that they moved the survivor 20 meters away to a spot that was
slightly more open for safer and easier extrication.
Capt. Jennifer Golembiewski, the aircraft commander, then flew an
approach to the top of the mountain and back down searching for the
new spot. She had no references at the new spot, so she passed the
controls to her co-pilot, Capt. John Alsbrooks, who guided the
helicopter to the new spot.
Once again overhead, Perez lowered the hook down to Brownell, who in
turn hooked up Kirby. She was hoisted to the aircraft where several
variables forced Perez, who is afraid of heights, to climb out onto
the skids to retrieve her and secure her in the aircraft. Brownell was
then hoisted and they flew Kirby to Sacred Heart Medical Center in
Spokane, Wash., for treatment.
On his "20th or so rescue," Perez said he feels good about their
"This was the first time I have had to go out onto the skids of the
aircraft -- and hopefully the last," Perez said. "Although
challenging, this rescue, like the others, always brings me a good
feeling. I'm glad we were able to help her get out of there and to the
hospital where she could be treated for her injuries."
On her second rescue mission, Golembiewski said she's proud of her
crew and more than happy to help out those in need.
"It's very rewarding to know that I had a small part in saving her
life," Golembiewski said. "We hope that we're never needed, but are
always ready to help when asked. I feel a tremendous amount of
responsibility toward guarding and saving the lives of the people of
Now recovering at the hospital with her injuries (two fractured ribs,
two spinal fractures and a fractured sternum), Kirby is thankful to
the Fairchild Airmen.
"I'm so glad they were there to help me through this experience," she
said. "They are very good at what they do. It was amazing they were
able to get me through that small opening at the top of the trees and
up into the helicopter. It's the simple things in life that touch me;
the medic who was helping me blocked the sun from my eyes with his
hand the whole way to the hospital. That meant a lot to me -- this I
will never forget."
On Aug. 9, the 36th Rescue Flight was involved in another rescue of an
Airman who was in training at Colville National Forest, Wash. This
most recent rescue was their 663rd.
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