Box Butte County, NE Television Tower Collapse, Sep 2002

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Box Butte County, Neb. - Two workers were killed when a 1,965-foot television tower collapsed Tuesday in a remote field as crews were working to strengthen the structure.

Killed were:
LAWRENCE A. SUKALEC, 59, of Valier, Illinois.
DANIEL E. GOFF, 25, of Sesser, Illinois.

Three other workers were injured and taken to Box Butte General Hospital, said Gary Bauer with the Alliance Volunteer Fire Department.
He said the injuries were not life-threatening.
The cause of the collapse was not known. The tower had been the tallest structure in Nebraska and one of the tallest in the world, more than 500 feet taller than the Sears Tower in Chicago and 700 feet taller than the Empire State Building in New York City.
Five people were working at the tower when it collapsed. The tower's owner, Duhamel Broadcasting
Enterprises of Rapid City, S.D., said two were repairing the roof to a small transmission building at the base of the tower. The other three had been hired to strengthen the tower so it eventually could be equipped with high-definition television transmission equipment.
Only about 50 feet of the tower remained standing and vehicles parked near the tower were crushed.
"At this point, we are, quite frankly, just numb," said Sharon Beal, a spokeswoman for Duhamel Broadcasting. "We regret the tragic deaths in conjunction with the work on the tower and extend our sympathies to the families."
The tower was used to transmit the main signal for Scottsbluff television station KDUH throughout most of the Nebraska Panhandle. The ABC affiliate could only be viewed by cable television subscribers after the collapse. Beal said a replacement broadcast tower would be erected but no one could speculate as to how soon.
Jerry Dishong, KDUH station manager in Scottsbluff, said there was no apparent reason for the tower to fall, citing clear, calm weather conditions and no report of a collision with an aircraft.
The National Weather Service had recorded only a slight breeze of 3 mph and clear skies in the area at the time of the collapse.
Farmer Don Jespersen of Hemingford was in a field about a half mile away when he saw the collapse.
"I happened to glance up and saw the tower toppling over. It looked like the center section kind of leaned out first and the top fell down," the 46-year-old said. "It seemed like everything was in slow motion. I just couldn't even believe what was happening."
Jespersen said he immediately drove
to the scene and called 911 when he saw people were injured. His wife and sister-in-law covered the injured with blankets.
"A couple of them was hurt pretty good," he said.
A small grass fire also was started by electrical wires that snapped when the tower fell, but the fire was immediately put out by firefighters from Alliance and Hemingford.
The tower, which was built in the late 1960s, stood alone in the middle of a pasture in Box Butte County, south of Hemingford and about 22 miles northwest of Alliance.
The tower was reinforced last year with new, larger guy wires in preparation for the addition of new high-definition television transmission equipment, said Monte Loos, operations manager for Duhamel Broadcasting.
Because of its height, the tower had seven levels of guy wires, Loos said.

WOWT News Article 2002-09-24