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04/10/24 Archbold Buckeye Paper Article

Caleb Gustwiller, rural Wauseon, amateur radio call sign KD8TGB, heard a mayday call on his ham radio, and started rescue efforts rolling.Before it was over, National Park Service Rangers in the Death Valley National Park in California were on their way to locate a stranded family whose vehicle was stuck in mud.Gustwiller tried to contact another station on the frequency of 23.430 Mhz in the 10-meter band on Saturday, April 6, but failed. During daylight hours, 10-meter radio signals can carry a long way.About an hour later, at about 6:30 pm EDT, he went back to the radio and simply turned it on.“I didn’t even touch it, I just turned it on and Kilo Oscar Six Delta Zulu X-ray, was saying ‘Mayday, mayday, we need help.’“I was like, ‘Oh my, what do I do now?’“I called them back with my call (sign) and I said, ‘What do you need?’ and he says, “We’re stuck in Death Valley desert.”Before Gustwiller could get more information the band conditions changed, and he couldn’t hear KO6DZX.“I put out a message to Craig (Rower, president of the Black Swamp Amateur Radio Club, of which Gustwiller is a member) to see if he could hear him.While Rower tried to reach the California ham, Gustwiller looked up the call sign on a national database and found it linked to an amateur operator in San Diego, Calif.KO6DZX only had his ham radio license about 10 days, Gustwiller said.Parks On The AirA nationwide ham radio activity called POTA (Parks on the Air), features ham radio operators setting up portable stations in various parks.They try to see how many parks they can transmit from, and how many contacts with other stations they can make.Gustwiller went to the POTA page on Facebook, asking if other hams could hear the station in distress.Before it was over, 80 comments were posted on the Facebook page.Once POTA hams got involved, things started to happen.“Several people, including me, called the sheriff’s office out where Death Valley is,” Gustwiller said.Others called the National Park Service office for Death Valley.Gustwiller and others also called San Diego police, asking them to check and see if KO6DZX was home. He wasn’t, but a neighbor told a police officer the family often goes camping.“It started to fall into place, like this is a real thing,” Gustwiller said.RangersPark Rangers began search for KO6DZX. They found him soon after the drivers of a couple of 4×4 vehicles freed the vehicle he and his family were driving from the mud.The Rangers told the family about all the people trying to find them.Gustwiller said the whole situation is “pretty incredible.“I was thinking about it… like the fact that I turned my radio on, and it (the distress call) was straight there.”And his radio just happened to be tuned to the exact frequency where KO6DZX was calling for help.“I mean, that’s incredible,” Gustwiller said.

Archbold Buckeye Paper Article


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