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TV's Distress Signal Creates Real-Life Drama

Tuesday, October 19, 2004; Page A24

EUGENE, Ore., Oct. 18 -- TV hardly gets much better than this.

An Oregon man discovered this month that his one-year-old Toshiba flat-screen television was emitting an international distress signal picked up by a satellite, leading a search-and-rescue operation to his apartment in Corvallis, 70 miles south of Portland.

The signal from Chris van Rossmann's TV was routed by satellite to the Air Force Rescue Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

On Oct. 2, a contingent of police, civil air patrol and search-and-rescue personnel visited the college student at his apartment in the small university town.

"They'd never seen a signal come that strong from a home appliance," van Rossmann, 20, said. "They were quite surprised. I think we all were."

Authorities had expected to find a boat or small plane with a malfunctioning transponder, the usual culprit in such incidents, emitting the 121.5 MHz frequency of the distress signal used internationally.

Van Rossmann said he was told to keep his TV off to avoid paying a $10,000 fine for "willingly broadcasting a false distress signal."

Toshiba contacted van Rossmann and offered to provide him with a free replacement set, he said.

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