Amateur radio is a great leveller bringing together people from different cultures, backgrounds, and generations. Knowledge is passed from one generation to the next and back again. While the grandfathers and great grandfathers amongst the fraternity pass on their years of experience to the younger enthusiasts the youngsters pass on their knowledge of the latest innovations often were they have the edge being quicker to learn than the old hands. It is or at least can be a two way street and to some extent it is that mix of young and old striving together to learn and grow that makes the hobby unique.
Over the years I have known a lot of people who helped my interest in the hobby grow from being an enthusiastic beginner to being someone whom others sometimes ask for advice. Some of the people who I counted amongst my best friends in radio were in the twilight years of their lives and I gave the best advice. A lot of them are no longer with us and I miss them all and their friendly reassuring voices as we put the world to rights deep in the night.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been stood in cold silence under a grey sky listening to the last post being played. It leaves an empty feeling inside but when, as had happened far to often in my life, a younger person happens to fall victim to illness or accident it is much harder to come to terms with.
The news that a family of three died in Palm Bay, Florida while trying to raise an amateur radio antenna leaves me shaking my head and asking “why?” What a tragic waste of life! No one should die as a result of what is after all just a hobby, let alone a family. Although I am thousands of miles away I feel as if it was someone I knew and a cold tingle run down my spine thinking what the remaining family members are going through.
The tragedy occurred when 55-year-old Melville Braham, 49-year-old Anna Braham and 15-year-old Anthony Braham were raising a fifty-foot amateur radio antenna at the home of Melville's mother Barbara's house. They had been working on the antenna for sometime and did not stop when the sun set as they raised the antenna they lost control and it fell on to overhead power lines. The impact sent 13,000 volts of electricity through the pole the three were holding. The antenna was being erected because Melville's mother Barbara KJ4KFF used amateur radio to keep in touch with the rest of the family back home in Jamaica. Barbara and granddaughter Melissa heard the explosion and called the emergency services. Neighbours also rushed to the scene after hearing the explosion.
For anyone who operates portable a lot it is a lesson that needs to be heeded. There are not usually overhead power lines where I tend to go with SOTA but they are not completely unknown especially where there are commercial transmitting stations atop the hills. Maybe it is only through good fortune that I have not been a victim of a similar incident. Only a couple of months ago I was erecting a fishing pole mast unaware of a overhead power cable hidden from my position by trees, fortunately my wife spotted it and we had to move the whole station out of the proximity of the cable. Hopefully that near miss and memory of the above tragedy will help me avoid repeating the mistake. The irony of my mistake is that on the carp/squid pole there is printed a warning of the dangers inherent in overhead power lines. In the UK the type of pole I use is often used for fishing on canals and for some reason power companies seem to love running their overhead power lines parallel to them making this sort tragedy almost common place. Thankfully it is a rare occurrence in the amateur radio community.
Please be careful out there. May you all live long enough for the mourners around your graveside to say, “Well he/she had a good innings!”