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Hiker rescued after 40-foot fall into water at Larrabee State Park

Mitch Nolze, a battalion chief of the South Whatcom Fire Authority, coordinates the rescue of an injured hiker who fell 40 feet into the water Saturday evening, March 5, at Larrabee State Park.
Mitch Nolze, a battalion chief of the South Whatcom Fire Authority, coordinates the rescue of an injured hiker who fell 40 feet into the water Saturday evening, March 5, at Larrabee State Park. Courtesy to the Bellingham Herald

A hiker was rescued Saturday evening, March 5, after falling off a 40-foot cliff into the water at Larrabee State Park.

The man suffered a head injury around 6:15 p.m. when he fell off a ledge while hiking with a group off Chuckanut Drive, said Mitch Nolze, a battalion chief for South Whatcom Fire Authority.

People climbed down the cliff face and brought him to the shoreline. He was in and out of consciousness, Nolze said.

South Whatcom firefighters reached the Cove Road boat launch, where they were instructed to go. But they couldn’t find the man. Then someone came running down the railroad tracks to tell them he was farther south, Nolze said.

After getting GPS coordinates from a person who was still with the injured man, rescuers figured out he was about 2,000 feet south of the boat launch.

The fire department uses that same area to train for the exact scenario. So they knew that by land it would take a complex ropes rescue to get the man to an ambulance, Nolze said.

Firefighters called the U.S. Coast Guard to send a boat, to see if it could pick him up in the shallows. Meanwhile the Coast Guard readied a helicopter in Port Angeles, too, in case the other two plans failed.

The Bellingham Fire Department also sent in its own inflatable boat.

Around 7 p.m., in darkness and drizzling rain, a 29-foot boat from the Coast Guard’s Bellingham station maneuvered close enough to the shore for the man to climb aboard, according to the federal agency. The man was transferred to a larger, 45-foot Coast Guard boat that took him to a waiting ambulance.

The man’s name hasn’t been released. An update on his condition wasn’t available Sunday.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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