MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Three individuals working on a television tower used by Sunbeam Television Corp.‘s FOX-affiliated WSVN-7 and BH Media Group Holdings’ ABC-affiliated WPLG-10 in Miami died this afternoon (9/27) after a piece of equipment they were on collapsed, plunging nearly 1,000 feet to the ground.
The incident occurred after the gin pole for the tower at 501 NW 207 Street in Miami Gardens, north of downtown Miami, gave way during the mid-afternoon hours. The three workers were on the gin pole, often used to reach items on structures that a crane cannot reach.
WPLG reporter Jeff Weinsier interviewed witness Eric Garner, who said, “I saw the guy on top of it — their cord was hanging down. I went in the house and I heard the noise. It sounded like the wind from the hurricane — the cord ripping, and then when I heard the boom. I saw the debris fly in the air and I immediately called 911.”
WPLG notes that the trio of tower workers were deployed by Tower King II, based in the Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill, Tex., and were contracted to upgrade one of WSVN’s transmission antennae. This information was also confirmed by NBC O&O WTVJ-6 in Miami.
WPLG Asst. Chief Engineer Steve Ellis said the workers were removing gear at the top of the tower to install the transmission antenna for WSVN when the accident occurred.
“When they were removing this gear, pulling the second piece down, what they call a gin pole lifting device collapsed,” Ellis said to Weinsier. “This is a very, very safe tower that we’ve used — that Channel 10 and Channel 7 and all the local broadcasters have used many times.”
The tower, owned by WPLG, was completed in 2009 and began digital transmission the same year.
In a statement, Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin said, “We are saddened by this tragic event. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of the three men who died. They worked for a company hired by Channel 7 to perform work on the tower that was required by the FCC.”
Tower King II was founded by Kevin Barber.
A statement on the company’s website reads:
Originally founded by one of the pioneers in heavy tower construction, Jimmy King, the Tower King name became an icon in the industry. Kevin Barber founded the latest incarnation as Tower King II and maintains Mr. King’s legendary reputation for quality and safety.
An email request for comment to Barber using an address found on the Tower King II website bounced back as undeliverable.
A phone call to Operations Manager Charlie Lee yielded his voicemail.