Volunteer firefighter dies in cell phone tower collapse

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Volunteer firefighter dies in cell phone tower collapse
Emergency workers remove injured from scene of cell tower collapse that resulted in LODD of a volunteer firefighter. (Courtesy of WBOY)

By Ann Rowland

A Nutter Fort (West Virginia) volunteer firefighter died Saturday as he was approaching the scene of a cell phone tower collapse where men were trapped in the wreckage. Firefighter Michael Dale Garrett, 28, was responding to a call of the collapse of a 300 foot cell phone tower that had pinned four contractors.  The collapse put stress on a second, smaller tower which collapsed onto Garrett who  was treated at the scene and transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

Nutter Fort Fire Chief Jeremy Haddix released the following statement. “It is with great sadness that the Nutter Fort Fire Department is confirming the line of duty death of one of our members, The firefighter was injured on scene in Summit Park during a secondary collapse at the cell tower, and transported to United Hospital Center. While being treated the firefighter succumbed to his injuries. We ask that you keep his family and all members of the Nutter Fort Fire Department in your prayers.”

The four contractors were from SNS Communications and were working on the 300 foot cell phone tower repairing structural damage.  Three of the men were tethered to the tower about 60-80 feet off the ground and the fourth worker was about 20 feet off the ground when the tower collapsed, pinning them underneath.  Other workers on the scene called for emergency assistance.  Despite the location of the site and the difficult road conditions, the first crews arrived on the scene within 10 to 15 minutes according to Summit Park Volunteer Fire Department member Steven Thompson.

The accident site was on a ridge about 200 feet above a main road and rescue crews had to use four-wheel drive and all-terrain vehicles to reach the site because snow had made the gravel road difficult to travel.  Three dozen people from eight different fire departments responded to the call.

Two of the workers died at the scene and another was injured and transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  A second firefighter was injured and was treated and released.

The cell phone tower is owned by SBA Communications and in a statement released the day after the accident they said “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the injuries to the other individuals, and our prayers and concern go out to the families involved.”  SBA has sent a team to the accident site to aid in any and all investigations into the collapse.

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