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Ham Radio Operators Assist in Catalina Island Rescue

10/30/2009

Around 9:45 on the night of October 23, while attending an overnight event at the Boy Scouts' Camp Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Karl Tso, KI6PCW, and his wife, Deborah Ava, KJ6CRZ, of Topanga, California, decided to climb a hill to check out the view -- and to see if they could get into the repeater on the island with their handheld transceivers. As they climbed the hill, the two radio amateurs heard a sound; Tso turned his high-powered flashlight on the source, only to discover a man who had fallen 48 feet to the rocks below, bleeding and severely injured.

According to Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service (LADCS) Recruiting Officer Norm Goodkin, K6YXH, Tso and Ava were on Catalina for an overnight Cub Scout event. While on the 26 mile boat ride to the island, the couple turned on their radios and got on the local repeater; a fellow ham passed them the frequency of the repeater on Catalina Island and they programmed it into their radios. "Just the weekend prior, both Karl and Deborah attended one of our classes and in that class, we showed them how to program frequencies in their radio. They are members of the Topanga Disaster Radio Team (DRT), part of the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP)," Goodkin told the ARRL.

That evening on their walk up the hill, they discovered Peter Koll, 61, had fallen, crashing down to the rocks below. At the accident scene, Tso and Ava got on their radios and quickly made contact with Scott Bastian, KD6QZX, of Fullerton, who called emergency services. Joyce Wood, KD6HYO, of Costa Mesa, who stood by in case further assistance was required. Koll was evacuated by Bay Watch and airlifted to St Mary's Hospital in Long Beach. According to the LA County Sherriff's office, his current condition is unknown.

"It was a surreal experience that Deborah and I will never forget," Tso told the ARRL. "We were horrified, yet very happy that we were there for the gentleman that was injured. At the same time, we strangely felt empowered, knowing that the ham radio system works. As we hoped, the ham community is for the most part made up of people who want to be helpful to others in times of need. Deborah and I are new to the ham community, but we would encourage others to become involved."



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