Cormorant Trophy awarded for Hat Mountain rescue

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In December, AgustaWestland announced the 2011 winners of the Cormorant Trophy, which recognises the ‘Canadian civilian, government or military crew that has performed the most demanding helicopter rescue of the year’.

Members of 442 Squadron stationed at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox – Aircraft Commander Captain Jean Leroux, First Officer Major Troy Maa, Flight Engineer Sgt Carl Schouten, and Search and Rescue Technician (SARTech) Master Cpl Nicholas Nissen – were presented with the trophy by Jeremy Tracy, AgustaWestland’s head of region (Canada), accompanied by Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk and base commander Col. Jim Benninger. One other member of the rescue team, SARTech Sgt George Olynyk, is presently stationed at CFB Gander.

 

Rescue summary

 

On the night of 23 December 2010, 442 Squadron’s ‘Rescue 907’, an AW101 Cormorant helicopter, was dispatched to rescue a 23-year-old man stranded on Hat Mountain in British Columbia, with a powerful winter storm approaching. The hiker was located 1,600 m up the mountain, 150 m into dense clouds, in a narrow and steep bowl. As the crew approached, they were battered by 85 kph wind gusts, forcing the pilots to fight rapid power swings and causing rotor speed changes. Using night vision gear, the search team were only able to make out a faint light, which they hoped was their rescue target.

Captain Leroux explained: “We reached the estimated location of the hiker by slowly flying up the side of the mountain. We had to attempt multiple passes until the visibility was good enough for us to fly over the man’s location.” Each approach pushed the helicopter to its power limits, triggering constant warning alarms.

Facing the risk of an avalanche, the crew decided on a fast extraction with the SARTech remaining attached to the hoist. The flight engineer directed the aircraft about seven metres above the hiker with a vertical rock face just one-and-a-half to three metres in front of the rotor blades, then lowered the SARTech, who quickly hooked up the rescue subject and both men were hoisted onboard.

A thick layer of cloud moved in, making it impossible to fly out the way they had come in. With almost no visibility, the crew managed to extract the helicopter from the cliff confines, relying only on instrumentation to show the way out, and flew to Lyons Bay soccer field, where the man was transferred to a ground ambulance to be taken to hospital for treatment for mild hypothermia.

Photo: The winners being presented with the Cormorant Trophy. AgustaWestland

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