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Newly Licensed Hams Help with Search for Missing California Man

07/20/2011

After Derrick Rush -- a 28 year old state corrections officer from Arroyo Grande, California – disappeared on July 9, several state agencies and volunteers began searching for him. According to reports, Rush vanished when he fell off his inner tube in the Kern River about 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield. Clayton Cullen, KJ6PYC, and his son CJ Cullen, KJ6PYD, of Paso Robles, joined the search efforts on July 13. Three days later, CJ spotted Rush’s lifeless body floating by in the river and used his handheld transceiver to report it. His father was able to secure the body farther down the river.

Once he had heard the body was secure, Clayton made the 911 call. “I got the authorities started and then via the radios we were using, I was able to call the family and the rest of the searchers,” he explained. “Unbelievably, I was right across the river from where he was spotted. I rushed down to the shoreline and discovered that the body had floated to my side of the river. I secured the body to prevent it from taking off downstream again and called for authorities.”

Hundreds of volunteers had been involved in the search each day from 6 AM until 4:30 PM. “As they were coming off of that trail head, they were just absolutely beat,” Clayton said, describing many of the volunteers who walked nearly 15 miles a day over hilly terrain in hot temperatures. “They were stumbling and they were totally, totally exhausted.”

The Cullens -- who only received their Amateur Radio licenses on June 30 -- joined the search in response to a plea for help from the Rush family; CJ was a friend of Derrick Rush. “He was a great guy. If it was any one of us, Derrick would have been out there,” CJ told KSBY.

His father agreed: “Though everyone had hoped for a happier ending, at least now the family can have some closure and not be kept wondering. This was our first endeavor using ham radios for a search and rescue effort, but I’m sure it will not be our last.”  -- Thanks to Jim Smith, KA6MLE, and KSBY for the information



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