36th RQS, SERE saves snowmobilers life

  • Published
  • By Airman Kiaundra Miller
  • 92d Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Fairchild Airmen rescued a severely-injured man on the top of Calispell Peak after an accident left him trapped between a tree and his snowmobile with a broken leg and hypothermia.

Karl Shoemaker lost control of his snowmobile after hitting a patch of ice, causing him to crash.

“It was 3 inches of wet snow on top of ice,” said Karl Shoemaker in his blog Survival of 2019. “Going downhill I was not able to stop. Either I fell off or jumped and ended up hitting some trees [and] caused severe injury.”

Due to the Shoemaker’s location in severe terrain, local civilian rescue agencies weren’t able to reach him, prompting them to call in the 36th Rescue Squadron to help.

“In this case, Shoemaker was on extreme terrain in a remote location, so normal vehicles weren’t usable,” Wilkes said. “They used snowmobiles to get to where he was at, but getting him out using snowmobiles could be a lengthy process, costing time, energy and resources; a helicopter just made more sense.”

The 36th RQS also has several unique capabilities: specialized training for operating in all weather conditions, the ability to hover with a helicopter instead of landing at the scene, and a rescue basket used to lift people into aircraft when they are immobile, Wilkes said.

Civilian officials directed the 36th RQS and Master Sgt. Stacie Ocasio, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape incident duty medical technician-paramedic, to locate, provide medical care and evacuate Shoemaker.

Upon arriving on scene, Ocasio was lowered to Shoemaker, assessed the situation and addressed Shoemaker’s injuries. She then readied him to be hoisted into the helicopter for evacuation to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Shoemaker presented a letter of appreciation to the 36th RQS May 22.

“I saw you guys and thought ‘what a beautiful world,’” Shoemaker said. “I wanted to hug them.”

Their efforts were heroic… between weather conditions and my location, they did their job exceptionally well, Shoemaker added.

We’re excited we were in a position to help Mr. Shoemaker,” Wilkes said. “He was in a bad spot that day and we happened to be close enough to help; that’s really what matters to us.”

Thankfully, these events are rare. When they do happen, Team Fairchild Airmen stand ready to partner with the community and ensure the safety of citizens in the region.