An off-duty Air Force Captain proved himself worthy of rank and regalia after conducting a daring rescue of a fallen hiker on the shoulder of Yosemite’s Half Dome.
Capt. Joshua Haveman, 60th Air Evacuation Squadron, was hiking the famous peak in September when he saw a climber slip in wet conditions and fall perhaps as many as 80 feet down onto a precarious ledge.
Haveman and the other hiker were at a section of the hike where in order to pass up solid granite, a series of cables embedded into the rock are necessary for safety and leverage. If they don’t have a harness, rope, and carabiners to secure themselves to the cables, hikers are left simply holding on to them or using them as handholds.
Without hesitation, Haveman took action. Faced with harsh winds, slippery rock, and hail, he made a decision to venture outside the permanent cable barriers to reach the fallen climber, Travis Air Force Base wrote in a statement.
His climbing experience and extensive medical training proved invaluable in this life-or-death situation.
“You could see that his legs were not naturally oriented at all, so I started collecting sticks from Sub Dome and started climbing,” Haveman recalled. “Other climbers were concerned for my safety, but the guy was just up there screaming in pain, so I left the cable area and climbed on the ledge.”
Using makeshift splints fashioned from sticks, Haveman provided crucial first aid to the injured climber by securing above and below the tibia/fibula fracture and wrapping his injured ankle with an ace bandage he had in a medical kit he had brought.
To shield the climber from the harsh elements and apparent shock, Haveman covered the climber with his jacket while organizing a call to search and rescue.
“After about 45 minutes, the Park Ranger emergency medical technician came up with a full medical bag, so we were able to use a structural aluminum malleable splint to better stabilize him,” Haveman explained.
“The weather was improving, so more climbers were able to come up and offer their assistance. They took up a collection for supplies that we were able to use to make an improvised pulley system to lower him the 30 feet down to sub dome.”
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Ultimately, the climber was medically evacuated via helicopter, receiving the critical medical attention they urgently required. Without Haveman’s swift and selfless actions, the outcome could have been far more tragic.
“I wasn’t sure a helicopter would be able to land with the winds being as strong as they were, so we were preparing to carry him 10 or 12 hours down with a six-man litter,” Haveman said with a pause.
“Apparently, it was this pilot’s first day on the job, and he was amazing! It took him about 15 minutes, but he was able to sit the chopper down and we were able to get the patient loaded and breathe a sigh of relief.”
It’s safe to say on behalf of the injured climber and everyone else in the country, things can only go so wrong when we have people like Capt. Haveman working and walking among us; his bravery and ingenuity are a credit to the Force and the country at large.
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