129th Rescue Wing rescues missing hiker on Fourth of July

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- What was supposed to be a normal Fourth of July holiday with friends and family, turned into a life saving rescue mission for members of the 129th Rescue Wing.

On the evening of July 3, the California Air National Guard was contacted by the California Emergency Management Agency about a potential rescue mission to find a missing hiker in the El Dorado National Forest, near Pioneer, Calif. The 54-year-old hiker, Lauren Ellen DeLaTorre, had become lost in the rugged terrain a day earlier after separating from a group of her friends. Ms. DeLaTorre had no food, water or warm clothing with her when she became lost.

Earlier on July 3, a helicopter crew from the 129th Rescue Wing was participating in the Red, White and Tahoe Blue Fourth of July Celebration in Incline Village, Nev. After completing a water rescue demonstration, the team returned to the Truckee Tahoe Airport. Later that evening, the demonstration team was contacted about the potential rescue mission. The mission's objective was to airlift teams of civilian search and rescue personnel into the forest. With a HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter already pre-positioned and the time critical period of patient availability given the conditions, the team accepted the mission.

The HH-60G helicopter crew received mission approval on Monday morning and took off from Truckee Tahoe Airport at approximately 9 a.m. After picking up two civilian rescue crews at the incident command post, the crew flew into the El Dorado National Forrest to drop off the crews at designated landing areas. Shortly after dropping off the second civilian rescue crew, the crew of the Pave Hawk spotted DeLaTorre in a remote area.

Due to the rocky terrain, the helicopter crew had to execute a tricky landing approximately 100 meters from DeLaTorre's position. Senior Airman Edward Drew departed the aircraft and climbed through steep and rocky terrain to rescue DeLaTorre, who was suffering from dehydration and  fatigue.  At the time she was rescued, she had been missing for almost 48 hours.

Once DeLaTorre was on board the helicopter, the crew airlifted her to the incident command post where she was treated for minor injuries and reunited with her family.  After flying to Placerville, Calif. to refuel, the Pave Hawk crew returned to pick up the second civilian rescue crew and return them to the command post.  After successfully completing the rescue mission, the crew flew back to Truckee Tahoe Airport.
This rescue mission brings the total number of people saved by the 129th Rescue Wing to 947.

"With lost hiker searches, you hope for the best but prepare yourself for the worst," said aircraft commander Capt. Nathan Nowaski. "It was extremely gratifying to find the missing hiker and get her back to her family safely."