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AFRCC helps save seven lives after Washington mudslide

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jared Scott
  • 601 AOC Public Affairs
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center stepped in to help local authorities after a massive mudslide left several residents injured, trapped or missing in Snohomish County, Wash.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. March 22, the AFRCC received a call from a 911 call center in Darrington, Wash., requesting assistance in the rescue of an unknown number of residents trapped by the mudslide.

"We were already aware of the devastation this mudslide caused the state of Washington from multiple sources, including the news," said Lt. Col. Ian Kemp, AFRCC commander. "Once the call came in, our controllers immediately started to coordinate with the closest and most suitable federal assets available to support Washington's request for a helicopter with hoist capabilities."

The AFRCC coordinated with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., which launched an MH-60 helicopter to support. In addition, the AFRCC also coordinated with Civil Air Patrol's Washington Wing. They launched a light aircraft to provide relay communication support to rescuers on the ground.

"After Whidbey Island launched, we received word the rescuers located seven residents that were trapped," said Lt. Col. James Woosley, AFRCC Director of Operations. "Three of the residents were injured so the MH-60 crew transported them to a nearby medical facility. The other four were in good condition so they were moved to safety outside of the affected area."

As of March 23, 2014 the AFRCC has coordinated on 124 missions resulting in 40 lives saved.

"Any day of the week, our controllers could be working multiple missions," Kemp said. "On every mission we are aware that person missing or in distress is someone's parent, child or loved one. Every save is a big deal to the men and women of the AFRCC, but it is especially important to the person's family and friends. Many people were affected by this devastating mudslide and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected and the rescuers who are still diligently searching for survivors around the clock."

Search and rescue operations in affected areas are still being conducted by local, state and federal authorities.

The AFRCC, a unit under Air Forces Northern, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As the United States' Inland Search and Rescue Coordinator, the AFRCC serves as the single agency responsible for coordinating on-land federal search and rescue activities in the continental United States, Mexico and Canada.

CAP performs 85 percent of continental United States inland search missions as tasked by the AFRCC and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually.

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