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Amateurs Coordinate Snow Rescue of Fellow Ham

02/10/2009

On January 25, Dale Ashcroft, KC7UYM, of Hyde Park, Utah, convinced his wife that it was a fine day for a drive. His pick-up truck was equipped with emergency food, blanket, water, a shovel and tow chain -- and his 2 meter radio. They headed off to Atlantic City, Wyoming, about 225 miles away. Their route took through a remote location where services -- such as gasoline, food, medical attention or a tow from a snow bank -- were nonexistent. In case some unexpected event might occur, those involved in such a situation could either wait, hoping that some other adventurous type would arrive on the scene or they could make an attempt to walk out of the area and back to a highway. It could be days before help might arrive, and to walk out in the winter with bad weather on the horizon could well mean disaster.

As Ashcroft and his wife neared Atlantic City, he drove his pickup truck onto crusted snow that soon gave way under the weight of the vehicle. With too much snow to remove by digging and no way to back out of the drift, Ashcroft and his wife faced a potentially dangerous situation. They tried to use their cell phone, but there was no coverage. Ashcroft then tuned his 2 meter radio to 146.390 MHz and began calling for assistance

In Riverton, Wyoming, about 60 miles from where the Ashcrofts were stranded, Steve Carpenter, KC7ZVV, heard a faint call on simplex. According to ARRL Wyoming Section Traffic Manager Duane Shillinger, NN7H, Carpenter was unable to contact the Ashcrofts, but he obtained enough information from Ashcroft's calls to understand just about where he was located.

Carpenter contacted Paul McTee, KB7FGN. McTee, who lives in Pavilion, Wyoming (about 65 miles from Atlantic City and 26 miles from Riverton) was able to hear Dale's call for help. "Paul attempted to establish two-way communications with Dale, but he was only able to hear a faint, nearly unreadable signal," Shillinger said. "Paul called Boyd Potts, KB5JR, on the phone to ask him if he was able to hear Dale's call through the Copper Mountain repeater (146.805 MHz), but Boyd couldn't hear him. A little after noon, Paul telephoned Yancy Allison, N7RON, at his home in Sinclair, Wyoming. Yancy quickly tuned to 146.390 MHz and established two way communications with Dale."

Shillinger said that more than 100 miles separated Aschroft and Allison: "This 2 meter contact can be considered quite spectacular. Yancy was able to obtain specific information that he relayed back to Steve and Paul. He was also able to tell Dale and his wife that a search and rescue unit would soon be leaving Riverton."

Carpenter contacted the Fremont County Sheriff's Department and provided that agency with the Ashcroft's exact location. "Dale and his wife were extracted from the snow bank, thankful that Amateur Radio had been the important link between their remote location and the assistance provided by the search and rescue unit," Shillinger said. "That Dale, when his cell phone failed him, was able to successfully use his 2 meter Amateur Radio to contact other amateurs should be a reminder to all hams who monitor local repeaters that it is indeed an important, if not a life saving, activity."



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