Dying for 3G? 6 cell-tower technicians fall to death in 5 weeks

A rise in cell-tower deaths is being attributed to the breakneck rollout of 3G cellular services, which require equipment on the tall installations to be upgraded. Fortune’s Apple blog tallies five deaths in only 12 days, following months of accident-free operation.

April 12: A 34-year-old cell tower technician from Oklahoma man died after falling 150 feet from monopole antenna in Wake Forest, NC. It was the nation’s first death in 2008 of a communications worker falling from an elevated structure.

April 14: A tower worker employed by Cornerstone Tower of Grand Island, Neb., fell to his death in Moorcroft, WY.

April 15: A 38-year-old technician finished tightening the bolts on a guyed wireless tower in San Antonio, TX, “sort of lean[ed] back a little,” according to witnesses, and fell 225 feet to his death.

April 17: North Carolina suffered its second cell tower fatality in a week when a 46-year-old Chesapeake, VA, man fell from a communications antenna in Frisco, NC.

April 23: A Griffin, GA, man died from extensive head and chest injuries after falling 100 feet from a communications tower near Natchez, MS. He was reportedly hanging boom gates to a Cell South antenna when he fell.

May 16: Guilford was rappelling down a load line attached to a 200 foot monopole when he stopped abruptly 140 feet up and bounced as if on a bungee cord, disengaging the carabiner that was secured to the tower.

After the first two deaths, AT&T ordered what must be an army of subcontractors to stand down and provide safety courses for their techs. Is it simply a statistical function of increased activity, or is AT&T pushing too hard to get its 3G network up and running in time for the new iPhone?

Fatal bandwidth: 6 cell tower deaths in 5 weeks [Fortune Apple2.0 via TechCrunch]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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9 Responses to Dying for 3G? 6 cell-tower technicians fall to death in 5 weeks

  1. widowedbird says:

    Jonathan Jay Guilford was 25 years old and his son is 17 months old and daughter is 3. He was a great father,husband,friend,and Tower Dog. He is loved and missed more and more each day. He was a hard working caring provider for his family. Yes it is very devastating that his children have to now grow up without him. His daughter will get to remmeber her Daddy but his son never will and that alone is the hardest part of the whole situation. Jay was a man who got out there and worked HARD to take care of his family. He will be missed dearly and NEVER forgotten!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ummm… I’m usually a fan of gadgets.bb, but this kind of crapmongering is needless.

    Yeah, Apple is causing the deaths of cell phone techs.

    Good job, guys.

  3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    WidowedBird, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for remembering him for us.

  4. Anonymous says:

    you, like techcrunch, must be a retard if you think that at&t can cause a person to not take serious precautions with their life just so a big corporation can launch a faster service.

  5. toxonix says:

    I don’t think any trained worker operating carefully, with quality, well maintained equipment should fall off a cell tower. Stopping during a descent and bouncing should not result in a locked caribiner flipping open.

  6. widowedbird says:

    Thank you your words of kindness are appriciated.

  7. dculberson says:

    You mentioned three things that most subcontractors don’t have: training, careful operations, and well maintained equipment.

  8. thirteenburn says:

    Whoooa…

    As I’m tripping around in boingboing and checking out all the different stuff, (I’m a noobz to bb) I happen upon this post, right as I’m watching the Dateline story on the people who climbe cell, data and internet towers, or ‘Tower Dogs’ as they’re called, and the man who died on May 16th (above) is being talked about on the television at the same freaking time as I’m reading about his death.

    His name was Jonathan Jay Guilford and was only 26 years old and left behind a wife and two year old son and a daughter who was three or four.

    Sad, but…

    Eerie…

  9. Anonymous says:

    As a 3G project manager I would be liable for ensuring the safety of my teams. Health and Safety is one area where there is no latitude. For these people to fall, they must have not been wearing safety harnesses or using the fall-arrest systems in place in the majority of towers and poles. The operator themselves would be liable if there are no safety-equipment checks in place. The assumption being that the contractor is either not using kit and/or there have been no safety checks by the operator. An alternative is that there are some fairly dodgy ‘safety’ kit being imported from somewhere to the west of Seattle.

    Sad, but true, that on a country-wide roll out there are normally at least two fatalities. Just one of those stats that you try to ensure does not creep into your project.

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