Amateur Radio Helps Rescue Injured California Outdoorsman

A relaxing weekend of camping and fishing didn’t go as planned last Friday when a member of a California outdoor club fell and broke his hip.

The Old Goats Mountain Club (OGMC) had fought its way along an old forest service road to a rugged, off-grid spot in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Dave Johnson, KL7DJ, said his friend slipped and fell trying to bring in a hold. The injury was so severe that the man could not be moved safely with a trip that could take at least 2 hours over the rough terrain.

Johnson is the group’s only licensed amateur radio operator and, using the California Amateur Linking Radio Association (CARLA) system, he was able to call for emergency help from that vehicle. Greg Stamback, KD6VEN, located in the San Francisco Bay Area responded and contacted Shasta County EMS who dispatched a REACH 5 rescue helicopter from their base in Redding, CA.

The whole rescue took about 1 hour and before the helicopter landed a local ambulance company arrived and were able to stabilize the injured camper. After surgery and 3 days in the hospital, he is now recovering at home.

Johnson’s wife, Linda, KL7ISN, helped coordinate the return of their friend’s vehicle to Redding. Using pre-planned contact times for Friday and Saturday and, after several makeshift automatic fixes, the car was driven onto a nearby freeway where two other club members were able to drive the car safely home.

But the weekend was not over for the help of radio amateurs. As the rest of the group drove out of the mountains on Sunday, they were flagged down by a stranded motorist. His car’s gas tank had been punctured and his mobile phone had stopped working. He was taken to a small community along the way where there was a landline, and he was able to call AAA for help.

Johnson said the motorist was grateful for the help and another OGMC member suggested the motorist might consider getting an amateur radio license.

While waiting for a tow truck to arrive, Johnson and a few OGMC members talked about ham radio and its help over the past few days. One member suggested that maybe he should even install a walkie-talkie in his vehicle. Johnson plans to make sure his friend and the motorist get a full demonstration.

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