Coast Guard recognizes officers involved in off-duty rescue on Mt. Whitney

Coast Guard officers Lt. Rachel Thomas and Lt. Mike Wu, and others, assist injured climbers after they fell on California’s Mt Whitney, June 10, 2018. Thomas and Wu stabilized injuries while awaiting rescue by Inyo County and California Highway Patrol. Thomas and Wu are assigned to Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Inyo County Search and Rescue/Released)

Coast Guard officers Lt. Rachel Thomas and Lt. Mike Wu, and others, assist injured climbers after they fell on California’s Mt Whitney, June 10, 2018.  (Photo courtesy of Inyo County Search and Rescue)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard recognized two officers, Wednesday, who were involved in an off-duty rescue on Mt. Whitney in early June.

Capt. Tony Ceraolo, the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco commander, presented Coast Guard Commendation Medals to Lt. Rachel Thomas and Lt. Mike Wu during a recognition ceremony held on Yerba Buena Island.

Thomas and Wu were climbing the 14,505-foot summit of Mt. Whitney, June 10, when they witnessed three climbers fall approximately 500 feet down the steep mountainside. Thomas and Wu made their way to the fallen climbers and assessed their injuries, which included head wounds and fractured bones.

Thomas and Wu proceeded to use clothing, blankets and climbing equipment to stabilize the wounded, restricting blood loss and preventing the onset of shock. Although limited cellular service in the area prohibited calling 911, Thomas and Wu were able to send text messages to other Coast Guard members, initiating a rescue effort.

For four hours, Thomas and Wu stabilized the wounded, keeping them warm and hydrated as they awaited rescue at their remote position at 13,000 feet.

The wounded were air-lifted off of the mountain by a California Highway Patrol rescue helicopter crew and taken to a nearby hospital.

“The Coast Guard Commandant’s guiding principles are that we are ready, relevant and responsive,” said Ceraolo. “These members’ actions proved and embodied these three principles and show that both on and off duty our members are always ready and relevant.”

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