Thursday was training day for the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team, in preparation for the long winter ahead. Crew member Miles Mcdonough is proud to be part of what’s known as "the last resort."
“People are really grateful when we show up,” he said.
An unsung member of this team is named SnoHawk, which comprises the helicopter part of the Helicopter Rescue Team. The chopper keeps watch over Snohomish County, as well as Whatcom and Skagit Counties. It lends its assistance to King and Pierce Counties and even flies across the Cascades to run rescues over there.
“Because of SnoHawk we're able to get there within that window of when they need help,” said Mcdonough.
SnoHawk averages 80 missions a year, from the back country to this summer’s Skagit River Bridge collapse. The crews are almost entirely volunteer, but it costs $150,000 a year fly the bird, and an expiring timber tax is threatening to ground it for good.
“The resource is extremely critical, being able to get there within that golden hour,” said Mcdonough. “That’s how lives are saved.”
Snohomish County found emergency money to keep SnoHawk aloft through next year, but after that there is no money. And when crew members say “no money” to fly the county helicopter, they mean it. They're so desperate, the team is doing everything short of a bake sale to raise cash. They’re holding fundraiser dinners and even selling t-shirts.
“Times are tough for everybody,” said Sgt. Dennis Wikstrom, who oversees the program.
It will ultimately be up to the community to save the stalwart SnoHawk, which has stood ready for them almost 20 years. If the helo doesn't fly, rescues will be relegated to much slower crews on foot.
“We'd much rather go out quickly and rescue and treat living people than go out there later and bring back dead people,” said Wikstrom.
Few know that better than rescue volunteer Miles Mcdonough. He fell seven stories down Mount Stuart in Chelan County during a hike with a friend two years ago. He suffered a broken shoulder blade, four broken ribs, a concussion and a collapsed lung. His buddy ran for help, and who came to the rescue? His own crew aboard SnoHawk.
“Seeing that helicopter coming over the ridge, I knew that I would make it through the day,” said Mcdonough.
The rescue volunteers need all kinds of fundraising help. They’re hoping to find a restaurant or caterer who can donate services for their dinner next spring. They say any and all help is appreciated. You can find out more and buy t-shirts by visiting www.supportthelastresort.com or through the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team Facebook page.