A Texas physician is dead after he piloted his small aircraft into a TV tower’s guy wires as he approached an airport in West Texas, causing the 814-foot guyed tower to collapse in Lubbock, Tex. last night at about 7:25 p.m., according to authorities.
Dr. Kenneth M. Rice was killed after his single-engine Piper PA-46 crashed into Raycom Media’s KCBD tower while he was approaching Preston Smith International Airport on a flight from Carlsbad, N.M.
The crash knocked the station off the air and cut power to the surrounding neighborhood. KCBD personnel were told to evacuate their building but the station was back on the air this morning, broadcasting from a studio provided by the Lubbock school district.
The plane landed in a field on the north side of KCBD’s studio and transmitter building. After Rice’s plane hit the ground some station personnel attempted to rush to the crash site to see if they could offer assistance, but realized that there were downed power lines and returned to the studio until emergency workers could take over.
When the structure fell, its guy wires whipped around power lines, lighting up the area with sparks as a substation’s lines started arcing.
Although local weather reports indicated that cloud cover was above 1,000 feet, a KCBD reporter who ran outside the studio to investigate what happened, said she didn’t immediately notice that over half of the tower had toppled since fog was covering that area.
Approximately 240 feet of the structure remained standing supported by two guy wires, according to authorities.
Emergency services personnel were seen in local broadcast videos working in proximity to the fall zone of the remaining tower.
It is not known if their incident commander conducted an initial size-up and risk assessment of the scene before beginning operations. Last year, an emergency worker was killed when a second tower collapsed in West Virginia and landed on his head as he was attempting to rescue an injured worker.
The National Institute of Safety and Health provided a detailed analysis of the incident.