Three workers have been killed and others have been hurt in the collapse of a cell tower near Clarksburg, West Virginia. As the State continues to struggle with the aftermath of the water contamination disaster in the Kanawha region, this additional disaster is another blow. For older West Virginians, the collapse of a structure like this brings the Willow Island catastrophe to mind, where over fifty workers were killed in a collapse of a power plant cooling tower in 1978. More recently, disasters like Upper Big Branch and Sago, have claimed lives for workers on the job in West Virginia in mass incidents.
At a time like this, we can only pray for the families affected by this tragedy and for our leaders and first responders -- a firefighter responding to the scene is among the victims. It is clearer and clearer every day that we have to do better in protecting our workers and our citizens from preventable and unncessary deaths and injuries. Let's hope we find the strength to do just that.
The Charleston Gazette reported the details of the tower collapse as follows:
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- Three men died, including a volunteer firefighter, and another two were injured when two cell phone towers collapsed Saturday in Clarksburg, emergency officials said.
Four contractors were working on one of the towers, making structural repairs, when it collapsed Saturday morning, said Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. A second tower was weakened by the collapse of the first tower and subsequently collapsed as well.
Two men were pronounced dead at the scene. The other two were being treated when a second tower collapsed, Messina said. A local firefighter responding to the collapse was killed when the second tower fell.
The two contractors who were killed were Kyle Kirkpatrick, 32, of Hulbert, Okla., and Terry Lee Richard Jr., 27, of Bokoshe, Okla. The firefighter who was killed was Michael Dale Garrett, 28, of Clarksburg and the Nutter Fort Volunteer Fire Department.
State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon said the contractors were tethered to the larger tower when it collapsed.
Waggamon said the two injured contractors were taken to West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. He said they had serious but non-life threatening injuries. He added the weight of the collapsed tower put stress on guide wires to the smaller tower.
The incident happened at about 11:40 a.m. along Murphy's Run Road, in the Summit Park neighborhood of Clarksburg, a Harrison County 911 dispatcher said.
Messina said the towers are owned by SBA Communications Corp., a company based in Boca Raton, Fla.
SBA Communication independently operates and maintains wireless communications infrastructures across North, Central and South America, according to its website. The company leases antenna space on its towers to wireless-service providers under long-term contracts.
The company has dozens of towers across West Virginia, according to its website.
SBA did not return phone messages Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the agency is responding to the incident.
Waggamon said the crew was performing maintenance to strengthen the tower's support when the accident occurred.
A 2012 investigation by ProPublica and PBS's "Frontline" found that tower climbing has a death rate roughly 10 times higher than construction work. The investigation found 93 deaths of tower climbers between 2003 and 2011.