July 23, 2012

Jammed radio transmissions hamper rescuers at crash scene

The FCC will investigate the jamming as emergency workers responded to a four-vehicle crash in Lebanon that injured 11.

Video from WGME-TV Sunday night news segment

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Eleven people were injured when four vehicles collided Sunday night on Route 202 in East Lebanon, and rescuers were hampered by what they said were intentionally jammed radio transmissions during emergency calls to mount a response to the accident.

click image to enlarge

Firefighters look over one of the cars involved in a four-vehicle crash that injured 11 people on Route 202 in East Lebanon on Sunday evening.

Photos courtesy/Lebanon Rescue

click image to enlarge

A GMC truck was one of four vehicles damaged in an accident on Route 202 in Lebanon. Police say the GMC truck struck a Malibu that was stopped to make a left turn.

Although no one suffered a life-threatening injury, several people were hospitalized and the road, also known as the Carl Broggi Highway, was shut down for more than an hour.

Lebanon's Assistant Rescue Chief Jason Cole said the crash occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Trains Quick Stop.

Cole said that someone jammed radio transmissions during the call, an illegal activity that Cole said will be investigated by the Federal Communications Commission.

"The interference caused the delay of four additional ambulances and additional paramedics being called to the scene for several minutes," Cole said in a prepared statement.

Larry Woods, a Lebanon emergency medical technician, was first to arrive at the accident scene. But when he tried to provide an overview of what happened, he could not get through by radio.

Cole said that dispatchers at the Sanford Regional Communications dispatch center read an FCC warning that the transmissions were being traced, which ended the interference almost immediately.

This is not the first time emergency communications have been jammed in York County. Cole filed a complaint with the FCC in April after several jamming incidents over the previous few months. Federal regulators said they would investigate and prosecute the responsible party, and FCC officials have been driving randomly through the area at times since then trying to trace the jamming transmissions.

The jammer usually keys a mike after hearing firefighters or other rescue officials keying a radio identification code. This prevents the rescuer's communication from getting through.

Jamming emergency radio frequencies is a violation of federal law and can lead to fines of up to $112,500 or prison. If jamming were to result in the loss of life, the person responsible could be charged with manslaughter.

Police said the crash occurred when a Chevy Malibu traveling east on Route 202 stopped to turn left into Trains Quick Stop.

A GMC truck struck the Malibu from behind before crossing into the westbound lane, where it collided with a Buick. A Ford Explorer that had been behind the Buick could not stop and hit the GMC truck.

A 102-year-old man, who was driving the Buick, survived the crash but was hospitalized. The man lives in Lebanon.

Cole said 11 patients were treated for injuries at the scene or were hospitalized.

Witnesses described the scene as chaotic. They told police that they could see smoke coming from the engines of several vehicles. The road was littered with broken glass and fluids.

Deputy Scott Hendrick of the York County Sheriff's Department is investigating the crash.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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