Virginia Hams Guide Rescue Crew

by Hugh Muir
The Free Lance Star –

Alert action by two ham radio operators recently helped bring speedy assistance to the scene of a recent two-car collision near northern Stafford County.

During a heavy rainstorm on July 27, KG4UCM was driving south on State Route 612 in Fauquier County along the western edge of Quantico Marine Corps Base. “I took that route,” he said, “because, in that weather, I thought it would be safer and easier than I-95.”

At 6:30 p.m. he came upon two cars that had plunged into the southbound ditch. They had collided head-on minutes earlier. Other vehicles had stopped. Debris was in the road and people were running back and forth.

KG4UCM is Siegfried Gates, a North Stafford resident who is also a ham radio operator. “I pulled over and asked a guy if a first-aid kit was needed. He said ‘yes’ and I got my kit from the car and began to treat one of the victims.”

Gates asked if anyone had called 911 and he was told there was no cell signal in the area. Gates had a 2-meter radio in his car. He turned it on and sent out a 911 call. Almost immediately, a voice came back. It was N2CLB.

N2CLB is Camden Bullock. He was driving south on Interstate 95 to his home in Fredericksburg from his job in Woodbridge. He was about 10 miles in a straight line from the accident. As usual, he was monitoring messages on his short-wave radio.

“Suddenly I heard Gates break in with emergency traffic,” Bullock recalled. “He had just come upon a two-car, head-on accident with one victim trapped. He said he had no cell phone coverage.”

Bullock turned on his mic and called “N2CLB break,” which asked other amateur operators to keep off that frequency so that Bullock could stay in contact with Gates. At the same time, he called 911 on his cell phone; the call was routed to the Prince William County dispatcher. “Knowing the area, since I am an [emergency medical technician], I asked to be transferred to Stafford County’s dispatcher because they were closer to the scene.”

From Gates to Bullock to the Stafford dispatcher and back again, information flowed concerning the location of the accident and the medical condition of the one seriously injured victim. “After a short time, KG4UCM radioed me that the patient was declining and that I needed to contact 911 again,” Gates said. There had been a mix-up over the route number. Another ham operator, who had been listening and who knew the area, cut in to clarify the accident location. Within minutes the Stafford emergency unit arrived and the victim was taken to Mary Washington Hospital.

N4SJX is T.J. Pittman of Spotsylvania County. He is secretary of the Stafford Amateur Radio Association. “This story brings great credit to two of our operators,” Pittman said afterward, “and also to the police dispatchers and the medical teams who responded to the aid of our citizens during this time of need.”