Worker critically injured in water tower accident

Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 6:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 6:10 p.m.

A member of a work crew, dismantling a water tower in Hawthorne Saturday afternoon, was critically injured when he fell and was cut by an exposed piece of metal, then burned by a torch, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and area fire rescue agencies reported.

The man, who was not immediately identified while officials attempted to contact his family, was taken to an area hospital, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard. His injuries were described as life-threatening.

The man received third-degree burns on his chest, arms and face, Maynard said.

The work on the tower is being funded by a grant received by the city of Hawthorne, Maynard said.

The wounded man is a Kentucky resident who is with a private vendor hired by the city to complete work at the tower.

At about 2:30 p.m., the man was working on the tower when the tether he was using, meant to save him if he fell, became entangled with a piece of the tower he was working on, said area fire rescue spokeswoman Carol Davis. When the piece fell, he fell and was cut by it. His own torch, which he had been using, also burned him.

Maynard said the piece of the tower was one of the metal legs of the structure.

The man fell about 60 or 75 feet from where he was originally -- about 100 feet off the ground, Davis said.

Another worker pulled the man back up to try to rescue him until firefighters from Alachua County and Gainesville arrived.

The incident is being investigated by the Sheriff's Office, Maynard said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will likely also be reviewing what happened at the site, he said.

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