From Bad to Worse

Downwash from an HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th Rescue Squadron at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, caused a rock to dislodge and knock a hiker unconscious in August 2014, Pacific Air Forces investigators found. The helicopter was hovering to rescue another hiker who was already injured and stuck on a Copper Mountain ridgeline when the mishap occurred, according to an accident investigation board report released Tuesday. The rock struck the previously uninjured hiker while he watched the rescue, causing a critical head wound. The need for a quick extraction of the first injured hiker; inability to use an alternate, safer rescue site; and the then uninjured hiker’s lifting of his head to watch the rescue hoist—despite instructions to protect himself with his backpack—substantially contributed to the mishap, investigators found.