A wireless communications worker was killed at the top of a Verizon Wireless mobile phone tower on Waits Road on July 2 when the routine installation of a new antenna went wrong. Heavy equipment plummeted over 240 feet trailing a cable that caught and severed the worker’s right arm and then, tragically, decapitated him before the eyes of his crew.
The man was identified as 28-year-old Joel Metz, a father of three from Indianapolis, according to an account of the incident from the Indianapolis Star.
The other three men involved in the installation managed to escape physical harm in the accident, according to the report from Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton.
According to the sheriff’s report, the four-man crew was nearing the end of a project to replace an antenna array at the top of the tower, which is owned by the Verizon Wireless Company.
The crew was employed by Fortune Wireless, Inc. of Indianapolis which contracts with Verizon Wireless to service its mobile phone towers.
Standard procedure is to have two men on the ground and two men harnessed in at the top of the tower to transfer the equipment, Hampton was told.
According to the testimony of the workers, the old antenna had been removed and a new one was within two feet of being installed when there was a “pop” sound and the equipment fell, Hampton said.
In the process of falling, Metz’s head and right arm were severed by the cable. The antenna array smashed into the ground.
Metz’s body was left in the harness while the other worker at the top of the tower slowly descended from the horrific scene.
At 2:20 p.m., Harrison County Fire and Rescue teams, Emergency Management personnel, and Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area.
After assessing the situation, the Cynthiana Fire Department was also called in to assist with retrieval of the body. The area was cleared of all but emergency response personnel, but it was soon determined that no Cynthiana or Harrison County first responder was appropriately equipped to attempt the climb.
Blue Grass Energy employees arrived to safely remove fallen cables that had draped themselves over the electric lines during the accident.
Later that evening, the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue team was invited to implement a safe retrieval plan, Hampton said. The rescue team is made up of highly skilled fire and rescue specialists who could bring the proper equipment and experience to the scene, he explained.
The sheriff, who remained at the scene throughout the recovery effort, said the complicated retrieval lasted until the late night hours.
In an ironic twist, on Tuesday, July 1, the day before the tragedy, Metz’s Facebook page included a panoramic photo of the Harrison County countryside as seen from the top of the cell phone tower.
None of the workers involved in the accident were from Kentucky, Hampton said.