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Amateur Radio Connects Family Members During Utah Boating Emergency


On June 5, Isaac Stiles, KJ7FAY, and his 3-year-old son were involved in a boating accident. Their canoe had tipped over at the Lost Dog Confluence to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The initial emergency call was made by Stiles’ wife, Kendal. She had to drive to nearby campsites until she found someone with a phone and then made the call to the Green River Fire Department (GRFD). She told them the pair were in the water but could not be seen or found. Emergency responders rushed to the scene.

The fire crews were able to find Stiles and his son on the opposite side of the river. They were rescued by a Sweetwater County Sherrif’s Department boat. Stiles’ son needed ambulance transportation to a waiting Air Med Helicopter, which would then take him to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Stiles said that once his son was loaded into the ambulance to meet the helicopter, he needed to call his mother to take care of his other son...but there was no cell phone service. So, he tuned on his mobile ham radio to a local repeater and was able to reach Zach Gunyan, KE7WYG.

Gunyan made telephone contact with Stiles’ mother and relayed critical information. He also went a few steps further and stayed on the phone to help calm and assure Mrs. Stiles that everything was going well. He took the rest of the day off from work, kept monitoring the repeater until Stiles was back in the area, and then went to the scene of the accident to help recover the boat and equipment.

After the telephone conversations with Gunyan, Mrs. Stiles thanked him for his help, to which he replied, “This is why I originally got into ham radio, to help just one person in an emergency.”

Stiles had a hard time finding the words to thank Gunyan. “He’s always been a dependable person and helped in many amateur events,” said Stiles. “We are fast becoming good friends!”

Gunyan said he keeps his radio on most of the time, except when he is moving between locations and servicing computer networks. “I lose signal as I move from building to building,” said Gunyan. “But on the day of the accident, I just happened to be at the right place, where I could hear the call for help.”

Stiles’ son is now out of the hospital and on track to make a full recovery.

Gunyan is an ARRL member and the current president of the Sweetwater Amateur Radio Club (SARC). He is an Emergency Management volunteer with the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office. Stiles, secretary of the SARC, is now working on a way to recognize Gunyan for his efforts during the accident.



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