May 2017 – Tower Death in Mississippi

May 2, 2017
Kris Edward Runyon, 39, has been identified as the tower technician who fell from a 220 ft. Crown Castle guyed tower near Meridian, Miss. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a resident of Portsmouth, Ohio. Kris, a 16 year tower veteran, had been working for D&K Nationwide Communications Inc. of Bristol, CT.

Runyon is survived by his mother, two sons and one daughter.

Runyon is reported to have fallen while taking project photographs. An additional crew member was on the ground.

As a subcontractor to turfing contractor MasTec, D&K was performing an AT&T LTE upgrade.

Tower Death/Suicide in 2016 in Kernersville, NC

November 30, 2016
A tower tech hung himself from a 450-foot self-supporting tower in Kernersville, N.C. Police received a call at 7:45 a.m. that a man’s body was hanging from a rope at the town-owned tower at 720 McKaughan St.  According to a police authority on the scene, the man had been on the tower before, but was not servicing it at the time.

According to Kernersville Fire Department Fire Chief Christopher Langham, the managing consultant for the tower, Al Linker from Linker Communications Services, Inc., suggested calling Sink Tower Erection Company as they have been on the tower and were familiar, as well as certified in tower rescue.

“Upon Mr. Sink’s arrival, their rescue certification was verified and it was determined the most safest and quickest way to get the victim down was to allow his crew to ascend and lower the victim,” Langham said.

“In rescue, we follow a much more stringent standard following the National Fire Protection Association 1670 document. We would not have used a winch system that Sink had available, but would have had to lower the victim approximately 50 feet at a time, setting and resetting our lowering devices. Based on all information given and the fact that this was a recovery and not a rescue, the decision was made to use Sink Tower Erection Company. Never was it an issue if emergency personnel were able to retrieve the victim,” Langham said.

Company owner James Sink, who is trained in tower rescue, and also trains his men, directed tower techs Jimmy Forrest and Vance Payne in retrieving the still unnamed tower tech who worked for another company, as they lowered him to the ground. Also assisting Sink were techs Mike Wright and Billy Talley.

Sink said that the man had been hanging from a 60-foot rope. “It took us about an hour and a half to get him down, because it was pouring rain,” Sink said.

Another Tower Death in 2016 in Chula Vista, CA

November 30, 2016
Matthew Vukasovich of Corona in Riverside County, age 38, died last Wednesday installing an antenna in Chula Vista, California. He worked for Motive Energy and fell about 30 feet while working at a rooftop site.

Although paramedics rushed him to Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, Matthew died from his injuries at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday, according to the coroner’s office.

His family and friends have set up a GoFundMe account to cover medical and funeral expenses. The funding site says it best: “we tragically lost a dad, husband, brother, son, and friend to a work-place accident. Matthew was only 38. We would greatly appreciate any immediate assistance in covering the costs of the funeral, memorial service, and other unexpected family expenses as he was the main source of the family income.”

6th Tower Death of 2016 in Tulsa, Ok

November 2, 2016
Authorities released the name of a deceased tower tech who fell from an SBA Communications monopole on Nov. 2, 2016 in Tulsa, Okla., Steven L. Hill, 44.

According to Jason Mann, owner of Mann’s Tower Services, Inc. of Hermitage, Ark., the tower technician that died worked for his company. Mann’s Tower Services was established in 2002 and has approximately 25 employees, according to the company’s web site.
Mann said he was not a subcontractor on the Tulsa project.

Local TV station FOX23 stated in a report that Hill’s employer, Mann’s Tower Services, had been issued three serious violations by Michigan OSH during an inspection in 2013.

Mr. Mann says the citations were for: Improper use of head protection; not providing a training program for each employee who uses a ladder; and for having an employee using a portable ladder and standing on the top 2 rungs or within 3 feet of the top of the ladder.

The company has never been cited for improper training or improper use of fall protection equipment.

The fatality was the 6th tower death of 2016.


August 30, 2016
Capital Safety/3M recently reviewed the performance of the original Lad-Saf™ sleeve in the field, including a limited number of incidents involving a serious injury or death in the United States while using the sleeve. Although our review did not reveal product hazard or risk scenarios that would arise in the ordinary and proper use of the product, it did reveal potential misuse scenarios that could result in serious injury or death. The potential misuse scenarios include interference with the braking mechanism (such as entanglement with cords, lanyards, clothing or other materials, or grasping the sleeve prior to or during a fall), or result from the user attaching the sleeve upside down (user inversion). No safety regulator has made a finding that the design of the original Lad-Saf sleeve is defective.

At 3M, customer safety and confidence are high priorities. In light of the reported incidents and potential misuse scenarios, we have discontinued sale of the original Lad-Saf sleeve, and are voluntarily initiating a full recall of all original Lad-Saf sleeves.

This Notice applies only to the original Lad-Saf sleeve and does not affect the X2 & X3 versions of the sleeve. View the Recall Letter

ComTrained Climber Rescues Co-Worker

July 27, 2016
Harold Finley, crew leader for the Columbia Pipeline Group, contacted Comtrain to say “Thanks for the training and support over the years.” Harold Finley was on site when 24-year-old tower climber Terry Thompson had to be rescued from about 300 feet after calling for assistance due to heat exhaustion.

His rescuer was Bernard Holly. Bernard had been Comtrain Certified in Tower Safety & Rescue. He used the Comtrain “suspension rescue” training tecniques to lower Terry Thompson to the ground safely.

The tower is located in Bracken County, KY. At the time, the temparuture was 87 degrees with a heat index of 95 degrees. The workers were repairing an obstruction light on a self-supporting tower at about the 300-foot level when Terry Thompson called down to his co-worker to be rescued.

About 80 people gathered at the scene as the man was being rescued and lowered to the base of the tower.

The Kentucky worker’s supervisor said that the tech had plenty of fluids while on the job and still succumbed to the heat. For a video and additional information regarding the rescue reported by WCPO, click here. Comtrain Rescue in Kentucky

Ham Radio Operator falls in AZ

June 9, 2016
A 72-year-old ham radio operator fell to his death in Mount Lemmon, AZ, as he was adding a new antenna to a 50-foot amateur radio tower., the website for the Amateur Radio Relay League, identified the victim as well-known DXer and DXpeditioner Milt Jensen, N5IA, of Virden, NM. The site said he was licensed as a radio operator in 1960, and had lived in Virden for his entire life. The site noted that in the upcoming July/August issue of NCJ, author Lee Finkel wrote Jensen, operated his dream station remotely from his home, often using the call sign N7GP in contests. In addition to his Top Band operation, Jensen was heavily involved in designing, installing, and maintaining VHF and UHF mountaintop repeaters, remotely controlled base stations, and linking systems. As a contester he often landed in the Top 10 standings. The fall is the fifth tower-related death of 2016.

Tower Death in Maryland

May 16, 2016
Montgomery County, MD police were called at 2:44 pm Monday, May 16th, after a worker fell from a cell tower at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) wastewater treatment plant in Damascus. Daniel Patrick Harrison, 25, of Indianapolis, IN, was dead at the scene. The technician was employed by Lewisville, TX based Marali Telecomm Systems, Inc. with offices in IN, TX, NV and CA. A WSSC spokesman said Harrison was working for one of AT&T’s contractors. The carrier is one of several vendors on the tower which is owned by the water utility that serves Washington, DC’s two neighboring Maryland counties, Montgomery and Prince George’s. MOST (Maryland Occupational Safety and Health) is investigating the death as a workplace accident.

Coda William Witt / December 11, 1945 – April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016
Thousands of the industry’s tower technicians arrive home safely every night because of their training by ComTrain Senior Instructor Coda William Witt, who passed away on Thurs., April 21, 2016 at age 70 while on a camping trip in Arizona. According to ComTrain President Zane Windham, Witt had trained more than 2,500 climbers after joining the tower safety training organization in 2005, but more importantly, Windham said, he imparted a desire on those he taught to embrace the need to be safe at all times and not to view the instruction as an employment requirement. “Coda was a soft spoken, straight-forward man that got everyone’s attention. His personal integrity and passion for his work just seemed to draw you in,” Windham said. And although he was low-keyed in his conversation, “Boy could he talk,” said ComTrain instructor Jim McClellan, who had known and worked with Witt since 1975 when both men were with the Arizona Department of Public Safety as riggers. “He was an easy-going, patient person, always happy. He was my best friend, and there’s nothing better than working with your best friend,” McClellan said. “He used to tell me that this was the most rewarding thing that he’s ever done in his life.” Witt died suddenly after he participated in a ham radio contest on Brook Bank Point near the Mogollan Rim with his wife, Diane, McClellan said. “He retired for the evening and passed away.” There was a silent key throughout the amateur radio community for Witt whose call sign was K7ANT. Diane said that he was just six countries short of communicating with every country in the world. In addition to Diane, he is survived by two sons. A memorial service will be held for Witt on Fri., April 29 at 11 a.m. at Mt. Bible Church in Payson, Ariz.

1st Tower Death of 2016 in Iowa

Feb. 17, 2016
The industry recorded it’s first fatality of 2016 when a telecommunications worker fell from a structure in Iowa. The Hamilton County Iowa Sherriff’s Department has confirmed that a 28-year-old tower technician fell to his death at approximately 4:45 p.m. on Wed., Feb 17th. The man was Stefan Watermann of Anamosa, IA who was employed by Tri-State Tower of Marion, IA. The investigation is underway into finding the cause. Assisting in the investigation are members of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Iowa State Patrol and the Ellsworth Jewell Stanhope Police Department. Founded in 1991, Tri-State Tower has an onsite 6,000 sq. ft. indoor training facility which houses three towers to train their employees with hands on learning, according to their website, and they provide annual in-house training and certification programs for continuous growth.