In an unexpected irony, King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, R-Redmond, was working on a supplemental budget request to fund a rescue hoist for the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on the same day missing hiker Cindy Wysocki was rescued by a Navy chopper from Whidbey Island.
Because the sheriff’s department helicopter – Guardian One – does not have a hoist, Wysocki’s rescue was delayed by at least an hour. Had the weather closed in or had it been later in the day, she likely would not have been rescued in time and would have perished, according to the sheriff’s department. Ground searchers were about six hours from her location.
“I want to thank Councilmember Lambert for her leadership in trying to find funding for this hoist,” King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said. “We could not be more pleased. If approved, this appropriation will save lives.”
After the Nov. 6-7 flood, Lambert surveyed damage in her east King County district from the sheriff’s department helicopter and learned it had no way to rescue stranded or endangered residents. She began working on a proposal to fund a hoist and winch system for the helicopter. Including installation, the system would cost about $200,000.
While Lambert was lobbying for the appropriation Monday, Nov. 20, Wysocki was spotted just before noon by the pilots of the sheriff’s department helicopter, deputies Tim Shook and Mark Rockwood. In the nearly 48 hours she was missing, Wysocki managed to travel nearly 10 miles.
Wysocki, 31, of Seattle had been hiking with two male friends on the Denny Creek Trail. She got cold and left alone to return to the trailhead. Her friends soon followed, but lost sight of her around 1 p.m. They searched the area before returning and summoning help, calling 911 at 2 a.m. Wysocki was prepared for a day hike but not to spend the night outdoors in near freezing temperatures. She was finally spotted on the bank of the Pratt River, but the area is heavily wooded and the helicopter couldn’t land.
Rescuers at base camp called the Naval Air Station at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island to send one of their rescue helicopters to winch Wysocki to safety.
In the meantime, Guardian One returned to the landing zone and picked up Air Support Unit Sgt. Sydney Jackson and returned to the river bank where Wysocki had been spotted.
Jackson had the crew hover low in the middle of the river, went out on the helicopter skid, then dropped several feet to a large boulder in the center of the channel. Carrying a rescue pack of dry clothes, a sleeping bag and energy bars, Jackson forded the rushing river in her flight suit to reach Wysocki, who by that time was shivering uncontrollably with blue lips, hands and feet.
Jackson helped Wysocki into the dry clothes and had her eat energy bars as they settled in to wait for the Navy helicopter. Both were hoisted to safety about 1:30 p.m. and flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Wysocki was treated and released.
Jackson, 43, has been with the sheriff’s office for 17 years and commanded the Air Support Unit for four years.