~CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE~
~CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE~
~From Kaman Rotor Tips June/July 1964~
Two HH-43B’s from Stead AFB, NV., played a major role in rescuing the occupants of a civilian Cessna 182 which crashed high in the rugged mountain country (on Mt. Dana) near Mono Lake, Calif. Also taking part in the search was another HUSKIE from Det. 12, WARC, George AFB, CA., and a HU-16 from Hamilton AFB, CA.
In one Stead HH-43B were Capt W.L. Henderson, mission commander; Lt R. J. McGeechan, co-pilot; SSgt C. E. Baker, crewchief; and Capt D.R. Olson, flight surgeon. In the second HH-43B were Capt L. P. Anatrella, pilot; Capt R. H. Finley, copilot; SSgt E. E. Hawley, crewchief; and SSgt C. D. Lewis, medical technician. Manning the HUSKIE from George AFB, CA. were Capt Ray Lefevre, RCC; lstLt Jim Crabbe, copilot; SSgt Charles Butcher, crewchief; and SSgt Truman Kilburn, medical technician.
The wreckage of the plane was spotted by Captain Anatrella. The almost white Cessna lay in deep snow at the 11,000—foot level of a 12,250—foot peak.
It was decided to first land the helicopter with the doctor aboard, so Captain Finley dropped smoke grenades to aid Captain Henderson and Lieutenant McGeechan in making the approach. They landed on the steep slope within 50 yards of the crash site. As they began removing snow and attending the survivors, the other HUSKIE dropped blankets, snow shoes and survival gear and also acted in a liaison capacity. Later the HH-43B from George AFB landed farther down the slope to give aid and shortly afterward the second Stead helicopter set down beside the first. Snow, three to six feet deep, made the operation extremely difficult.
One of the survivors was ambulatory, but Doctor Olson labored over the other two much more seriously injured survivors for long hours in the cramped space of the Cessna’s cabin before they were ready for evacuation. Six men were required to move one man with a possible fractured spine from the plane’s cabin to a Stokes litter. After this delicate task they began the painfully slow job of moving the litter patients through the deep snow to the HH-43B’s. The Stead helicopters evacuated the survivors to an airport (Lee Vining) where they were transferred to a waiting aircraft. Doctor Olson accompanied them on the flight to Reno.
(I was flying A/C 59-1542. If you remember, it was the sickest bird on the line, and I didn’t have enough power to land until I burned off some fuel. I landed with the nose pointing down the mountain and the vertical stabilizers stuck in the snow.)
~Stead AFB Flight Times 10 Apr 64~
“We’re sure glad to see the Air Force”
This frank comment greeted a Stead physician early Saturday morning from a crash scene high in the Sierra. It came from two Californians and a Nevada pilot who huddled in their damaged aircraft for 24 hours while temperatures dipped to 10 degrees.
The physician, Capt.Donald R. Olson, had been flown to the scene by one of two Stead based HH-43B’s.The dramatic rescue story began Friday morn-ing as Jack Roys, 42, of Reno; Ralph Weaver, 49, and Jack Copple, 49, both of San Jose, Calif. were en route to Tonopah, Nev. Their craft was a single engine, high wing, white colored, small plane.
As they flew east of Lee Vining, Calif., something went wrong. Roys, the pilot, pancaked the ship onto a snow covered mountain slope. He sustained a severe head injury. Copple had back damage and Weaver suffered from a deep scalp wound. But they were alive and the plane was in relatively good condition.
The plane’s radio worked but Weaver was unfamiliar with its operation. With Roys’ aid he managed to get on the air and attracted the attention of another civilian pilot. However, darkness settled before an effective search could be initiated.
At 7:30 p.m. two HH-43B’s; and crews were alerted for a dawn search The searchers were up at 2:45 a.m. and airborne at 5:15 a.m. The weather was clear. Mission Commander, Capt. William Henderson had Lt. Raymond J. McGeechan as copilot, SSgt. Charles Baker as engineer and Captain Olsen as the medic. Piloting the second ship was Capt. Louis Anatrella with Capt. Richard Finley as copilot and SSgt, Hawley as engineer. Medical technician aboard was SSgt. Carthel Lewis.
At Lee Vining the aircraft refueled from a tanker which had been sent ahead for that purpose,
Within minutes after the search began, Captain Anatrella, flying at 11,200 feet, sighted the downed plane. He radioed Captain Henderson and at the same time notified search aircraft from Hamilton AFB, CA., and George AFB, CA. of his discovery, “We found the crash at the 11,000 foot mark. It was one mile south of Mt. Dana on a northwest slope. The slope was gentle and , was in the shade, the HH-43B pilot reported. “It was a lucky sighting. The plane was almost all white and there was from three to 10 feet of snow on the ground.” Minutes later, Captain Henderson’s copter was on the ground unloading Captain Olson who carried a heavy medical pack and had donned snow shoes to battle his way to the crash 75 yards from the Stead helicopter.
Captain Anatrella, in the meantime, was off-loading medical equipment and Sergeant Lewis. He later took to the air to serve as a communications ship connecting the scene and the two search craft from California.
The Stead physician discovered that Copple had a dangerous back injury. Improper movement would have damaged the spinal cord. Roys’ head injury was severe. Weaver had bandaged his own wound and cared for the others throughout the long, cold night.
“I was surprised to see them alive but it was gratifying to see they had survived despite their injuries,” Captain Olson commented. “They told me it was the longest night of their lives,” he added.
Copple’s injury required several hours of intensive work by the medics before they could move the Californian from the plane, at about 11 a.m. the Stead copters lifted from the 15 degree slope and flew to Lee Vining. A civilian aircraft then carried the injured men to Reno for additional medical care.
“I doubt that they could have lasted another night on the mountain,” Doctor Olson commented. “It is remarkable that they lived the first night.”
He credited Weaver with a level headed approach to the problems of caring for his injured friends, patching up broken windows with paper and actuating the radio.
Weaver later admitted to Stead personnel that on the next airplane trip over the mountains he would carry survival equipment , a move Air Force men have advocated for years.