LOXLEY, Ala. (WALA) – The incident commander at a recovery operation involving more than a dozen agencies Tuesday described the harrowing operation at a television tower in Baldwin County.
The accident resulted in the death of a contractor doing work on the 2,000-foot broadcast tower near Interstate 10. Loxley Fire Battalion Chief Will Ervin, the incident commander, described the incident as an equipment “malfunction.” He said the technical rescue crew from Florida’s Escambia County did not know whether the worker was alive or dead but had to approach the operation cautiously.
“We got there as quick as we could,” he told reporters. “We don’t make that distinction (between rescue and recovery). The big thing is to be safe and that’s, that’s why it took so long. These things are not quick-moving scenes. We take our time because we don’t want to get … closer to 1,700 feet up in the air and not have a good plan, a good idea what you’re getting into.”
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said the contractor who died was from out-of-state. He withheld the victim’s name pending notification of his family.
Initially, Mack said, law enforcement authorities got a call shortly after noon reporting someone had fallen from the television tower, although that turned out to be wrong.
Ervin said the victim got caught up in some equipment and fell part of the way down the tower. He said the men secured the man’s body and then made it safely to the ground with the help of firefighters. One of those contractors suffered minor injuries but did not have to go to the hospital.
Ervin said the tower is much higher than most of the fire and rescue workers are used to dealing it.
“A lot of it is overwhelming. OK, so who do we need; where do we call?” he said. “So luckily, we had the first couple guys on scene recognize that.”
Teams from Mobile and Foley stood by as back-up while the team from Escambia County ascended the tower in a yellow life buket. Ervin praised the teamwork.
“Well, I think the biggest thing that worked is interagency cooperation. We had a total of 13 agencies, and over 60 personnel here from all different agencies, volunteer and paid,” he said. “So a lot of the training on the paid side for the technical rescue teams is very extensive, and they also have the equipment that’s very expensive. So that’s where their expertise came in.”
Considering the circumstances, Ervin said, the response went well.
“I believe everything was a success,” he said. “Nobody got hurt from our side.”