A wireless communications worker was killed at the top of a Verizon Wireless mobile phone tower on Waits Road Wednesday afternoon when the routine installation of a new signal receiver 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 later identified as 28-year-old Joel Metz, a father of four from Indianapolis, according to a report from Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton.
The other three men involved in the installation managed to escape physical harm in the accident, Hampton said. The sheriff was on the scene throughout the recovery effort.
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. Standard procedure is to have two men on the ground and two men harnessed in at the top of the tower to transfer 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 and the equipment fell, Hampton said.
In the process of falling, a cable sliced through the head and right arm of one of the workers. The antenna array smashed into the ground. The body of the deceased worker was left in the harness while the other worker 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 to render aid. 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.
Into the 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 bear on the scene.
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, retrieval efforts were still ongoing.
The identity of the other three workers, and the company with whom they worked, was withheld. The workers were from outside the state of Kentucky, Hampton said.