Bellingham, Wash. - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter crew from the Bellingham Air & Marine Branch located a missing hiker shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, Aug. 4.
The hiker, 56-year-old Orin Church of Seattle, had been missing for more than 12 hours after becoming separated from his hiking companions in the remote Baker Lake area, inside the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, approximately 45 miles southeast of Bellingham.
George Ratayczak, Search and Rescue coordinator for the Whatcom County Sheriff's office, said Church took a wrong turn and became separated from a group of hikers in the Anderson/Watson Lakes area Tuesday morning.
CBP air interdiction agents in an AS-350 A-Star helicopter responded to a request for air support assistance from WSCO search and rescue personnel. The missing hiker was located in total darkness in a heavily-wooded area Wednesday morning but the A-Star was unable to land in the immediate area.
The CBP crew returned to the trailhead where search and rescue members were gathering, picked up a WCSO deputy and EMT, and delivered them to an improvised landing site less than a mile from the hiker's location. It took ground rescuers six hours to reach the missing hiker who was stranded on the north side of Anderson Butte.
Search and rescue personnel from Bellingham Mountain Rescue assisted WCSO in the rescue effort. Church was airlifted to Skagit Valley Hospital where he was treated and released with minor injuries to his back from a fall.
"This successful search and rescue effort typifies the outstanding professional working relationship between CBP and the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office," said Keith Powell, director of air operations at the Bellingham Air & Marine Branch. "We are all thankful that the hiker was located and appears to be on his way to a successful recovery."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.