Worker escapes with injuries in 40-foot fall into empty O'Hara water tank
Talk about narrow escapes.
Rescuers managed to squeeze a fall victim out of an O'Hara Township water tower through what amounts to a large wire and tubing conduit.
The man, who was part of a cleaning crew preparing the tower for painting, tumbled 35 to 40 feet into the tank when his scaffolding failed, according to officials.
The man, whose identity was not immediately released, was conscious when firefighters rescued him a shortly after 2:30 p.m., said George McBriar, chief of Blawnox volunteer fire department.
The man was rescued through a tube, which McBriar said was just 3 feet in diameter, at the bottom of the tower, located at the end of a quiet, wooded, dead-end street perpendicular to the 900 block of Field Club Road in O'Hara.
Firefighters at the scene determined the bottom of the water tower was the best access point after realizing the man needed medical attention. They also noticed an extension ladder blocking close to half of the top entrance of the 200-foot tower, which would have made a rescue from the top difficult, said Fox Chapel Assistant Fire Chief Brian Zimmerman.
Emergency crews remove indiv on stretcher near O'Hara water tower pic.twitter.com/znFPMMspre— Andrew Erickson (@AErickson_Trib) November 14, 2016
"This is the first time we've had to deal with an issue like this," McBriar said. "A lot of it was training and a lot of it was knowing what assets were available. A lot of it was new territory."
The man was hooked up to an IV inside the tower, McBriar said. He was harnessed and lowered through the tight enclosure using an "air chair" belonging to the man's company, as well as a Sked, a type of backboard used in confined space rescues, he said.
"For the circumstances, and for how long he was in there, he seemed to be doing OK," Zimmerman said. "We're hoping that everything comes out pretty good for him."
The man had injuries to his right arm and back, McBriar said, and was taken by ambulance to Fox Chapel Area High School. A medical helicopter was waiting there to transport him to a hospital for treatment, authorities said.
McBriar said the man was wearing a safety harness at the time of the accident but it wasn't clear where it was anchored.
The painting project, the first of its kind on the tower in 25 years, was expected to be completed Friday, said Don Kendrick with Fox Chapel Authority, which oversees the tower. Neighbors said crews had been working on the tower since August.
The man worked for A1 Industrial Painting Inc. in Struthers, Ohio, Kendrick said. An office manager with the company declined to comment Monday afternoon when reached by phone.
Andrew Erickson and Mary Ann Thomas are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Erickson at email@example.com or at 724-226-4675. Reach Thomas at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Madasyn Czebiniak contributed.