UPDATE: Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Involving 2014 Cell Tower - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Involving 2014 Cell Tower Collapse in Summit Park

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Clarksburg, WV - UPDATE (6/9/2015 at 3 p.m.):

Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the estates of two workers and a local firefighter killed and two others injured when the cell tower they were working on collapsed near Summit Park on February 1, 2014.

Wrongful death lawsuits were filed on behalf of the administrators of Kyle Kirkpatrick and Terry Richard, both of Oklahoma, who were both killed when the Despard tower collapsed, and personal injury lawsuits were filed on behalf of Randall McElhaney, of Texas, and Jerry Hill, of Oklahoma, who also sustained injuries in the collapse.

The lawsuits on behalf of Kirkpatrick, Richard, McElhaney and Hill name SBA Communications Corporation of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and FDH Velocitel of Springfield, Illionois as defendants. Also listed as defendants are six subsidiaries of the two companies based in Charleston.

A wrongful death lawsuit has also been filed on behalf of Nutter Fort volunteer firefighter Michael Garrett, who was killed when a second tower collapsed as he and other first responders went to assist the workers.

The lawsuit on behalf of Garrett names S&S Communications Specialists, SBA Communications Corporation, FDH and subsidiaries, the Summit Park Volunteer Fire Association and Brenda Fragmin, chief of the Summit Park Volunteer Fire Association, as defendants.

All five of the lawsuits seek compensatory and punitive damages and demand trials by jury.

The four lawsuits filed on behalf of the workers state that due to the rapid increase in the cellular phone industry, the number of towers were also increased rapidly, and to meet this need, "new tower companies were developed often without the knowledge, ability and/or motivation to properly train their crews to do their work competently, carefully and safely." 

The lawsuits also state that SBA and FDH were "well aware" of the risks involved in the work on the "older" Despard tower and that SBA "knew or should've known" the dangers involved in tower work after the 2013 death of a worker in Mississippi, who also died from injuries suffered while working on an SBA tower.

UPDATE (2014): 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a cell tower collapse that happened on Saturday, Feb. 1. in Harrison County.

The collapse killed Kyle Kirkpatrick, 32, from Hulbert, Oklahoma, Terry Lee Richard, Jr., 27, Bokoshe, Oklahoma, and Nutter Fort Volunteer Fireman Michael Dale Garrett, 28, of Clarksburg. One other firefighter was treated for his injuries and later released. Funeral arrangements for Garrett have been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. at the Nathan Goff Armory in Clarksburg. A viewing for Garrett is Friday, Feb. 7 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Davis Funeral Home in Nutter Fort.

The collapse happened just after 11:30 a.m. on Murphy's Run Road in the Summit Park area of Clarksburg. West Virginia State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon said four workers in total, three men approximately 70 feet above the ground, and a fourth man, about 20 feet above the ground, were on the tower. They were repairing and removing old structural supports, and before any of that could be done, the tower collapsed. All four were pinned in the wreckage for sometime, said Cpl. Waggamon.

SBA Communications spokesperson Lynne Hopkins provided a statement regarding the collapse on Tuesday, Feb. 4, "Two towers collapsed while one was being worked on to permit additional tenant equipment to be added to one of the towers. The first tower collapsed, resulting in the death of two individuals and injuring two others. When the first tower collapsed, it compromised the second tower and the second tower collapsed, resulting in the death of a first responder. The project was contracted by SBA to an independent engineering firm, which in turn sub-contracted the work to S. and S. Communications Specialists, Inc., a firm based in Oklahoma. Two of the individuals who lost their lives and the two injured were employees of S. and S.  At this time we do not know why the accident occurred," said Lynne Hopkins, spokesperson for SBA Communications."

U.S. Department of Labor Regional Director Leni Fortson said OSHA is concerned about the alarming increase in injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites. As of Sept. 2013, Fortson said there had been 14 incidents, which is more than the last two years combined. OSHA is aware of an acceleration in tower work due to cellular infrastructure upgrades and is addressing the sharp rise in incidents through outreach and enforcement efforts, said Fortson. OSHA has six months to conduct the investigation into the collapse.


UPDATE (2014): 


SBA Communications released a statement about the cell phone tower collapse on Sunday, Feb. 2:

"Late Saturday morning, we were made aware of a tragic incident that occurred at one of our tower sites in Clarksburg, West Virginia. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the injuries to the other individuals, and our prayers and concern go out to the families involved.

 SBA Communications is cooperating fully with any type of investigation being conducted by governmental agencies. We realize the sensitivity surrounding such an unexpected event and have mobilized our team to be on the scene to assist with any information needed," stated Lynne Hopkins, spokesperson for SBA Communications."


UPDATE (2014): 


The West Virginia State Police has released the names of three men who died Saturday, Feb.1 after the collapse of a cellular phone tower.

Two men were killed and two men were injured as they were making structural repairs to the tower when it fell.

A Nutter Fort Volunteer Fireman was also killed when a second tower collapsed. The second tower was weakened by the collapse of the first tower, officials said.

The two injured workers, and an additional injured firefighter were transported to Ruby Memorial hospital and United Hospital Center for treatment for non-life threatening injuries.

The names of those who died as a result of this incident are Kyle Kirkpatrick, 32, from Hulbert, Oklahoma, Terry Lee Richard, Jr., 27, Bokoshe, Oklahoma and Nutter Fort Volunteer Fireman Michael Dale Garrett, 28, of Clarksburg.


UPDATE (2014): 


West Virginia State Police said four workers in total, three men approximately 70 feet above the ground, and a fourth man, about 20 feet above the ground, were on the tower.

They were repairing and removing old structural supports, and before any of that could be done, the tower collapsed.

All four were pinned in the wreckage for sometime, said Cpl. Mark Waggamon.

Two of the four men died at the scene, the other two men were transported to a hospital.

A member of the Nutter Fort Fire Department died after a second, smaller tower collapsed minutes later. 

Names of the workers, and the firefighter haven't been released. 

A second firefighter was also injured and has been treated and released.

It remains under investigation.

Stay with 12 News for further updates.


UPDATE (2014): 


A firefighter has now died as a result of injuries suffered from a cell tower collapse in Harrison County.

Nutter Fort Fire Chief Jeremy Haddix confirmed the death in a statement sent out Saturday.

"It is with great sadness that the Nutter Fort Fire Department is confirming the line of duty death of one of our members. The firefighter was injured on scene in Summit Park during a secondary collapse at the cell tower, and transported to United Hospital Center," said Haddix.

"While being treated the firefighter succumbed to his injuries. No name is being released at this time. Further details will be released at a later date. We ask that you keep his family and all members of the Nutter Fort Fire Department in your prayers. Please refrain from contacting the fire department for further information."


ORIGINAL (2014): 


Two people are confirmed dead, and three injured after the collapse of a cell tower on Saturday.

It happened just after 11:30 a.m. on Murphy's Run Road in the Summit Park area of Clarksburg.

Summit Park Volunteer Fire Department's Fire Chief said four contractors were approximately 80 to 100 feet up on the tower, and harnessed to it, when it collapsed.

A firefighter from the Nutter Fort Fire Department was injured, after debris fell while trying to remove one of the contractors.

That firefighter was stabilized by rescue personnel and taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. The remaining two contractors were flown by helicopter also to Ruby Memorial Hospital. 

Their conditions are unknown at this time.

Officials said the workers were trying reinforce the tower when the accident happened.

Officials said the workers were subcontracted by a company called SNS.

Stay with 12 News for the very latest.

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