Why Amateur Radio is Important
Roger Hunt, K7MEX

A version of this story appeared in the March 2014 edition of All Ears, the newsletter
published by the Escondido Amateur Radio Society (EARS) in California. I spoke with the
primary person involved in this incident, got some corrections to the original version of the
story, and the corrected version appears below.
There is a large off-road 4WD event in the Lake Havasu area held the third weekend of
March each year. Called Desert Run Havasu, it was March 13-16 this year, and involves
4-wheeling runs over trails of varying difficulty. One indvidual who participated this year
was retired attorney Bruce Boogaard, a new ham with the call sign KK6DKJ. Bruce got his
technician license less than a year ago, in April 2103, and admits he has never even been
on a repeater before, using his radios for simplex communication with other 4-wheelers.
Participating in the Desert Run Havasu, Bruce was navigating through an area with a large
group of off-road enthusiasts, and as he had been taught to do, kept his eyes on the
vehicle both in front and behind him. While most of the group used CB radios, Bruce and
another ham named Scott Connelly also kept in touch on a VHF ham frequency. Scott was
near the front of the group, while Bruce was near the rear. The group became widely
separated, with nearly two miles between the first and last vehicles in the group. The
distance proved to be a problem in the difficult terrain and some of the vehicles using CB
radios lost communication. However Bruce and Scott were able to maintain contact with
their ham radios.
Bruce eventually noticed the second vehicle behind him was driving erratically and falling
further behind. When the vehicle made a strange turn up the side of the wash, Bruce
contacted Scott and asked that he relay a message to the group leader by CB radio to stop.
Bruce turned back and checked on the driver, discovering he was incoherent and obviously
having some kind of medical emergency. Bruce updated Scott as to the problem and
stated they needed to get this guy to hospital as soon as possible. There was no cell
service in this remote area, but Bruce had brought with him the frequency and PL tone of
a nearby repeater. Though Bruce had never used a repeater, he was preparing to put the
information into the radio when he received a call on the simplex frequency, 146.550 MHz,
that he had been using to talk to Scott.
As luck would have it, a group of hams belonging to the Family Motor Coach Association
(FMCA) were having an RV ralley in the Lake Havasu area and were using the same
simplex frequency. He heard Bruce’s call to Scott, and since he had cell service where he
was located, offered to call 9-1-1. An ambulance was dispatched to the nearest trail head,
and the 4-wheelers were able to get the man there in about 20-25 minutes. The man was
transferred to the ambulance and later transported via Life Flight to a hospital in Phoenix.
It turned out the man had a blood vessel burst in his brain, but survived, partly because of
the quick action of the amateur radio operators involved. This incident is a classic example
of why ham radio helps save lives, and works when all else fails.