Two die in BAS relocation accident

Two tower workers installing a steerable microwave antenna as part of the 2GHz BAS relocation work being done for KSHB-TV, the NBC affiliate in Kansas City, MO, died July 10 when they fell from the tower they were working on at a site in nearby Douglas County, KS.

Jerry Case, 54, was the owner of Structural Inspections Inc. of Blue Springs, MO, and Kevin Keeling, 33, of Independence, MO, was his employee.

No official explanation from OSHA or the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office about the cause of the accident has been released. KSHB-TV chief engineer Jay Nix, however, said a malfunction occurred as the pair rode a pan up a load line to complete their work that morning. The line used to hoist the pan apparently snapped when the workers were about 650ft off the ground.

Case, who had done much of the tower work for Kansas City radio and TV broadcasters as well as local police, had been in the business for 34 years without incident, Nix said.

Work remains unfinished at the KSHB BAS site, which remains inoperable. “It is difficult to find tower crews who will work after an incident like this,” Nix said.

Cases’ death in particular has a broader impact on BAS relocation projects throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. “Jerry was going to do the installs for every station in town,” Nix said. “We were the first out of the chutes. I know all of the others are feeling the effect.”

BAS license holders nationwide are operating under an FCC deadline of Sept. 7, 2007, to complete a relocation project that will move them from analog channels between 1990MHz and 2110MHz to new 12MHz-wide digital channels between 2025MHz and 2110MHz. As part of a frequency swap agreement with the commission, Sprint Nextel will reimburse stations for the expense of new equipment and installation. Structural Inspections Inc. was working for the station.

For Nix, who has served as chief engineer at KSHB for two years, the deaths are “a double whammy.” Last year, he lost a friend in a similar accident involving the Iowa Public Television tower southeast of Omaha, NE.