Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers in Kentucky recently joined other volunteer organizations, law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency managers in an effort to locate a missing single-engine private aircraft. ARES teams and individual volunteers from Grayson, Hardin, and Davies counties and elsewhere mustered on June 1 at the Owensboro Airport — the plane’s destination — to assist with communication. Kentucky State Police had put out the call for information on the plane’s whereabouts.
Members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) also took part in the search-and-rescue mission, and the operation had support from the American Red Cross, which provided meals and water for the responders. The plane was believed to have gone down near Rough River State Park, not long after departing the Falls of Rough airfield on a flight back to its home base of Owensboro.
“We were only called out ‘for communications,’ so we didn’t know what would be needed,” Hardin County Assistant Emergency Coordinator Shelby Ennis, W8WN, said afterward. “Therefore, both W8QAS [the emergency communications point of contact for the incident] and I took a lot of gear. Most of it was needed.”
Kentucky Region 2 Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator George Allen, WA4YPQ, activated Hardin County ARES and requested help from Kentucky Section Emergency Coordinator Cecil Dennis, K4CTD.
Firefighter Andrew Whobrey, KG4OOZ, also served at incident command (IC) for communications relay and support on non-ham radio frequencies, and there were three radio operators at the IC to monitor the various radios and frequencies. Ennis said four dual-band radios were pressed into service to monitor and/or operate on up to a half-dozen or so different frequencies.
The crash site was spotted on the afternoon of June 1 in a remote area. The downed aircraft was said to have been an experimental military replica that flies at extremely slow speeds. A ground team subsequently reached the crash site and removed the body of the pilot, Dr Robert C. Dalzell Jr of Owensboro, a retired physician.
“The local emergency manager and the others [involved] were greatly appreciative of our coming down and providing the communications for them,” Ennis said. He noted that upward of 50 individuals, including a dozen or so radio amateurs, were involved in the search effort.