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Coast Guard helicopter crew rescues Keizer dad, injured teen daughter and their dog in Three Sisters Wilderness

Father's Day to remember for family, 'incredibly challenging rescue' after 14-year-old injures knee

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A Keizer father, his 14-year-old daughter and their dog planned to wrap up their fun five-day hiking trip in the Cascades on Sunday, Father’s Day. But it turned into quite a different experience when she dislocated her knee and couldn't go on, prompting an "incredibly challenging" air rescue in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew out of Astoria.

The Coast Guard released video of the rescue operation and initial details on Monday, with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management providing more background to NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday about the rescue that took place on the Willamette National Forest, just west of the border with the Deschutes National Forest, along the Porky Lake Trail, 13 miles southwest of South Sister and 11 miles west of Mt. Bachelor.

The rescue began after the father called 911, a call that was routed to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. DCSO's SAR coordinator initiated a SAR incident report with the Oregon Emergency Response System. They contacted OEM Search and Rescue Coordinator Scott Lucas, the only OEM official who can call in outside agencies to assist.

Lucas told NewsChannel 21 he reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Astoria Air Station around 4:20 p.m. Sunday after Air Link said they couldn’t reach the hikers due to icing and mist at higher elevations.

Lucas said Deschutes County usually would have responded, since it was so close to their county line, but their SAR team was already out on a mission. Lucas said he coordinated the use of outside air resources because while a ground rescue team was en route, it would have taken longer, the weather was worsening - and then the father's cellphone died.

Lucas said he usually would have called the Oregon Army National Guard in such a situation, but being Father’s Day, he figures that could have taken four or five hours. Meanwhile, he said, “The Coast Guard had been training for inland SAR. We’ve been working with them for years on coming inland. They did one (a rescue) on Mount Washington a year ago.”

The Coast Guard out of Astoria took the mission, he said, while the wife and mother of the hikers drove over from Keizer, meeting them at the helicopter’s landing spot at Redmond Municipal Airport, along with a Redmond Fire & Rescue ambulance.

Watchstanders at the 13th Coast Guard District Command Center in Seattle said they received a report at 4:20 p.m. by Oregon OEM of the injured teen, who sustained a severe knee injury and was unable to hike back to the trailhead.

They directed the launch of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria to assist. The aircrew arrived on scene around 6:30 p.m.

Due to the steep terrain and tree height exceeding the helicopter’s hoist cable length, the two rescue swimmers were lowered about a quarter-mile from the hikers’ location.

The rescue swimmers located the hiker and her father, then used a confined space stretcher to carry and drag the patient over fallen trees, rocks and snow back to the hoisting area.

The aircrew hoisted the injured hiker, along with her father and dog, into the helicopter and transported them to Redmond Municipal Airport to awaiting emergency medical services; the teen was reported to be in stable condition.

“This was an incredibly challenging, but rewarding rescue,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason Weeks. “The environment in this region posed significant challenges but, because of our constant training for dynamic conditions such as these, we were able to work together as an effective team and complete our mission successfully. This aircrew consisted of three dads, so it was very heartwarming to, on Father’s Day, play a role in the safe return of a father and his daughter back to safety.”

Oregon OEM's Lucas said he never found out how the teen – who’d also had a dislocated knee previously – was injured. “Her cellphone died, which made it kind of urgent to get out there, with the weather getting cold. They had been hiking for five days and were well-equipped.”

Before venturing outdoors, the Coast Guard said it want to remind people to follow these recommended safety guidelines:

  • Carry a form of communication in the event you need assistance.
  • File a travel plan and leave it with somebody you trust. It should include when you are leaving, where you will be, how long you will be gone and when you plan to return.
  • Carry the appropriate gear, including a first aid kit, food, water and extra clothing in the event you need to shelter in place. In an emergency, rescuers may take several hours to reach your location.

The OEM official noted that it's common for hikers to leave their cellphones on in areas where there is no service, but this drains the battery quickly, as the cell phone will keep searching for a signal. Lucas stressed that it’s best to put your on airplane mode or turn it off when you are in areas with spotty service. This preserves that battery, should you need to try to call out for help. Also, having an emergency phone charger in your day pack is a good idea. 

“The first thing we ask folks in these situations is, ‘How much battery life do you have?’" Lucas said. "They’ll say something like 16%, and we will tell them to turn off their phone and only turn it back on every hour or so. It is an added challenge in these situations.” 

For more tips on safe hiking, the National Parks Service has an article, Hike Smart (U.S. National Park Service) ( 

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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