BIG SOUTH FORK AMATEUR RADIO CLUB – W4BSF
It happened just that fast.
Introduction: While the Big South Fork Amateur Radio Club (BSFARC) was providing communications for the
Dark Sky 50 Ultramarathon on May 1, 2021 they went from an informational runner NET to an emergency NET
very quickly. The BSFRAC team at Gobblers Knob (led by Lee WB3AJS and Dinah KD2LSA with additional
support by Bill KF4TY and Nancy KC8VTT) was conducting normal runner updates and preparing for the
transportation of participants that did not make the cut off time of 4:00pm.
At 3:50pm a single horseback rider galloped into the aid-station. The rider explained he needed help as his
father had been thrown from a horse and was unconscious. Lee WB3AJS who has EMS experience and a
complete medical bag jumped into his car along with the young man and headed down the road towards Long
Branch Trail and Terry Cemetery.
An initial call from Gobbler’s Knob aid-station stating that Lee was responding to a fallen horse radio was
made to Pickett Net control. Bill was hiking back up the trail towards Gobblers Knob when he heard the call
come in. When he returned to the aid-station he was briefed on the situation. Austin K5QF who was at Pickett
started reviewing a map of the area to help determine that the incident was probably within Pickett County.
He also started to monitor the Fentress 911 frequency for information that could be relayed to the ham team
As Lee was not in radio contact Bill contacted NET control at Pickett State Park (Jamie KO4LVG and Dale
KO4DHA) and requested that all radio traffic be suspended while the situation was being assessed. Without
cell service at Gobblers Knob Bill radioed in the request for emergency assistance to Pickett. Pickett was able
to do a simplex relay to Frank (KT4SH) who was up on the main road calling in runner’s bib numbers as they
approached the finish line and had cell service. Frank’s 911 call went to the Overton County 911 emergency
operations center where he was immediately transferred to the Fentress 911 after determining from those on
the scene that the injured rider was believed to be in Fentress County. Fentress County EMS after numerous
questions dispatched rescue and an ambulance for assistance. When Fentress 911 operators were satisfied
with the information, they took Frank’s cell number to call back if they needed more information and then
terminated the connection.
Bill being unable to reach Lee notified Jamie/Dale at Pickett (Net Control) and left to locate Lee and the injured
rider. Bill was arrived on-site of the accident at approximately 4:05 pm. Upon arriving Bill provided additional
information to the entire team on the location which was approximately 1 mile from the end of the road at
Terry Cemetery and the condition of the injured rider.
The Fentress County 911 operator tried to call Frank back but due to the lack of signal was unable to connect.
Austin was monitoring Fentress EMS frequency on his radio and let Jamie/Dale know that Fentress County 911
was trying to reach Frank. Dale and Franks were also notified by Richard KC4MJN who was listening to the race
and part of Fentress County’s 911 center.
Frank upon receiving notification to re-establish connection to 911 this time upon dialing 911 reached Scott
County 911 center and relayed to them that Fentress County had dispatched Rescue and Ambulance and
relayed to them the information that Bill provided.
Nancy and Dinah were able to care for the horse after it cooled down and gave it an apple (Lee’s apple) and a
little water with the help of an aid-station volunteer. The horse had been tied up to a signpost after arriving at
With the understanding that emergency personnel were on their way; Bill moved his vehicle back up the road
as not to block access to the rider and to help direct the first responders. He asked that Dinah and Nancy let
him know when the ambulance passed Gobbler’s Knob. He also asked that Austin K5QF and Charlie K4CFM
drive to the Divide Road entrance to help direct the first responders and to notify the team when they left the
highway. As Lee attended to the injured rider, he provided Bill with vital signs and overall condition which
were relayed to Frank which in turn was passed on to the Scott County 911 center.
Dinah kept up with the activities at the aid-station and requested that all vehicles remain in place as it was a 1-
lane road that needed to remain available for first responders. This prevented additional confusion and
mitigated the risk of impeding the first responders.
Charlie communicated when the ambulance entered Divide Road with Austin directing them and then Dinah
provided the update when it passed Gobbler’s Knob. This was helpful to the injured rider’s family that help
was getting closer.
The responders from Fentress County arrived on site around 4:30pm along with other various first responders.
While Lee briefed the EMT Bill provided additional information to the other responders as the ambulance
arrived. The congestion quickly grew as more responders arrived. Bill was able to demobilize and notify the
team of the situation while Lee’s car was blocked in still. The 2nd ambulance was from Scott County and
arrived after the Fentress County Search and Rescue team was on-site. Numerous National Park vehicles also
arrived on-site to aid the team. The Scott County EMS team was stopped at Gobblers Knob and was briefed on
the situation. They also spoke to the Scott County ambulance driver as well but did not continue down the
The emergency radio traffic was cleared about 4:50pm and the frequency was returned to Pickett NET control
after a quick on the air de-brief. Lee returned about 15 minutes later and began to demobilize the Gobbler’s
Knob comm portion as the aid-station had closed at 4:00pm.
Conclusion: Amateur (ham) radio was able to provide the necessary communications when cell phones had
no signal which allowed for a quicker request for assistance. It was very fortunate that Lee had EMS
experience and was able to respond quickly to the situation. The entire BSFARC team was able to contribute to
the emergency NET and that other operators stood-by and ready to help as needed. Without amateur radio
operators in the area the outcome of this incident may have not had the outcome as it did.
- Bill: It would have been helpful to have zeroed out the odometer to identify how far down the road from
Gobbler’s Knob it was to the injured rider.
- Bill: The activation of Austin to the corner of Divide Road should have occurred earlier but was not Austin’s
- Bill: Keep it simple and straight the best you can as he admits that he said, “Approximately male” rather
than the intended “approximately 40-year-old male.”
- Austin: Cell phone GPS coordinates may have been helpful to the first responders.
- Austin: There were some doubles on the radio as other stations attempted to assist. It should be noted to
leave gaps in-between calls for other stations.
Bill Green, KF4TY
Scott County TN ARES EC
Big South Fork Amateur Radio Club