Tower collapse claims two

This 1964-foot tower in Scottsbluf, Neb., collasped last week killing two contracters and injuring several people on the ground. (Photo provided courtesy
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This 1964-foot tower in Scottsbluf, Neb., collasped last week killing two contracters and injuring several people on the ground.
(Photo provided courtesy of Heartland Aviation of Alliance, NE)

Two contractors employed by KDUH-TV Scottsbluff, Neb., died Wednesday, September 25, when the 1964-foot tower they were working on collapsed. The contractors were making DTV modifications to the tower when it collapsed. Three people working on the ground were also injured. The collapse crushed several vehicles and started a 1-acre fire. Only the bottom 50 feet of the tower remained standing. The weather was clear and winds were calm at the time.

The tower, erected in 1969, was the tallest structure in the state, 110 feet higher than the second highest Nebraska tower. A nearby farmer who witnessed the collapse said that the center section leaned out and the top fell down. The tower was located approximately 30 miles northeast of Scottsbluff and supported the channel 4 analog antenna atop it, and was being prepared for installation of a Dielectric channel 7 DTV antenna, which would have been sixty feet below the top.

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administrators said that it could take months to determine why the tower fell. Debris cleanup will not begin until the OHSA has finished its initial onsite investigation, which is expected to take several days.

KDUH is feeding the local cable company, Charter Communications, via fiber so that cable subscribers will continue to receive the ABC affiliate. A temporary low power transmitter on channel 2 in the Scottsbluff and Gerling areas is also providing supplemental coverage. The station and tower are owned by Duhamel Broadcast Enterprises, based in Rapid City, S.D., which besides KDUH, owns three other television stations, one AM and two FM radio stations.

Earlier this year Duhamel had requested an extension with the FCC to construct KDUH-DT, along with its other DTV stations for technical and legal reasons. In KDUH’s case, Duhamel said that it would not have enough time to construct the facilities by last May's deadline, due to the short amount of time since its construction permit was issued (October 5, 2000). Besides engineering personnel shortages, Duhamel said there is also a shortage of tower crews available, and that only five tower companies in the country were qualified to work on such a tall tower. Severe weather was another factor.

Duhamel, in its extension request, asserted that since KDUH operated as part of a network to distribute KOTA Rapid City, S.D., the microwave paths used to transport KOTA’s HD programming would have to be replaced. This microwave network, which feeds other stations in addition to KDUH, is 1140 miles long, and involves 17 transmitter and receiver pairs, all of which would have to be replaced. Now they have to add a tower to that list.

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