Seven drinks, seven years and one important tailgate session

Discussion in 'Managing Projects and Business Issues' started by Wireless Estimator, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Wireless Estimator

    Wireless Estimator Administrator Staff Member

    Seven drinks, seven years and one important tailgate session
    A Polk County, Iowa jury found a Belews Creek, N.C. tower technician guilty last month of severely injuring Des Moines police officer Phoukham Tran after he struck him with his vehicle while Tran was directing traffic at the state fair last August.


    Last week, the presiding judge handed over the maximum sentence of seven years in prison to 37-year-old Keith Terry, five years for serious injury by vehicle, and two years for Operating While Intoxicated.

    Terry had been working on Des Moines tower sites for approximately one month and after leaving a bar after work he was driving by the entrance to the state fair when he hit Officer Tran.

    Court testimony was presented that Terry thought the traffic light was green and Tran backed out in front of Terry's truck. The prosecution argued it was red.

    But it was clear through Terry's testimony and a breathalyzer test that identified that he was three times over the legal limit and he was drunk. Terry told police he had six beers and a shot of whiskey between 4 p.m. and midnight, when he pulled out of the bar parking lot and traveled less than a block before hitting Tran.

    Over a dozen viewers aware of the incident in the past month emailed Wireless Estimator about the guilty verdict and questioned why we weren't writing about it.

    We had opted not to publish an article just because a tower technician was convicted of an OWI for an incident that occurred while he was not working for his employer.

    So, why the newfound relevance?

    The significance is he's not alone in denying he has a drinking and possibly drug problem since he was also charged with possession of marijuana.

    It's a predicament of many people in our industry, whether they are in wireless construction or pop breath mints all afternoon to hide a three-Manhattan lunch following a meeting with a major co-locator.

    A closer look has revealed that Terry is still in denial that his drinking played a role in Tran's near-death accident that has left the man partially paralyzed and with continuing problems from a brain injury.

    Terry contends it was simply an accident and that he was not reckless when he climbed behind the wheel.

    “Everything happened so quick, I really don’t know what the hell was going on,” Terry said on a recorded police interview that was played for jurors during the trial. “When I (expletive) up, I knew I’d (expletive) up, so I threw it in park and stepped out of the vehicle.”

    The video, made a few hours after the crash, shows a distraught Terry discussing his high tolerance for alcohol and his belief that he was not particularly impaired.

    He said he worked 2,000 feet above the ground and is responsible for the lives of several crew members, and it is his habit to have a few beers each day after work.

    “I feel that I was OK to drive,” Terry said in the interview.

    “Yes, sir, I believe I was slightly intoxicated,” he told officers a few minutes later.

    Slightly pregnant? Slightly tied off?

    Terry, who made $18 an hour working for the tower contractor, was unable to post his $51,000 bond.

    Terry's employer is unknown and it's not important to uncover. If the Ford F-350 with coax in the rear was one of their vehicles, their insurance premiums will go off the charts since Tran will possibly require a lifetime of physical and financial recovery assistance.

    What is important, however, is that this tragic accident should be used for one of the most important tailgate sessions a company can hold.

    In a new industry Job Hazard Analysis form being introduced later this month, contractors of all sizes who assisted in developing the best practices JSA, have added a short checklist entitled Last Five Minutes, focusing upon how you should leave a jobsite.

    It should be a reminder that vehicular safety doesn't end when you're off the time clock.

    Feel free to provide your comments regarding alcohol or other dependency problems and how companies and employees can ensure that they're part of the solution and not the problem.

    What is your employer's policy on the usage of company vehicles? How do you unwind after a stressful day?
  2. Andrew

    Andrew Industry Observer

    There is never an excuse for drunk driving.

    JHAs/JSAs, whatever you feel like calling them, do very little for the safety of a tower crew and are really just a means of CYA , reducing insurance premiums and shifting liability.

    Honestly?????????? Do you really think a tailgate meeting would have stopped Terry from having his drinks? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say NOT.

    The best thing about a JSA is that it lists site location, so some tower hand doesn't call EMS in an emergency situation and tell the 911 operator that "we're at a tower next to a field in somewhereville USA .
  3. jamesNC

    jamesNC Friend of the Community

    Well, our motels are near gas stations and we can't drive we have to pick up what we want or walk everywhere. But the guys I worked with never got drunk. It's stupid to get drunk.
  4. CirclePoint

    CirclePoint First Time Poster

    I have to disagree with you Andrew. The JSA's do a lot for the safety of a tower crew if you take them seriously and if you take safety seriously.

    They are especially helpful for the new guys and subs to identify what potential hazards they need to watch out for. I think your attitude is the problem with this industry, most tower techs go out with the tough guy attitude and try not to take anything serious so that they look tough in front of their crew.

    As a GC owner, I keep a sharp eye out for for guys like you and get rid of them immediately as they can be a cancer within the organization.

    Safety is a culture. Sure it may not prevent people from drinking and driving, but JSA's and tailgates are very important for the overall safety of a site
  5. JerBo

    JerBo Friend of the Community

    I worked with a kid from Pittsburgh, who was known to get drunk and high.
    He was a good tower climber and a hard worker.

    There was never a problem with his work.

    I honestly think that the money he made burned a hole in his pockets.
    His only other problem was - he had a family at home and had to spend long periods of time away from his family.

    The schedule for tower construction was very tight and there was no down time.
    His only complaint was not getting paid after a job because of mistakes.

    The inspector didn't inspect the job until after the crew had left the site and any mistakes found was repaired by a second crew.

    The contractor would deduct the cost of the second crew from the pay of the first crew and sometimes it would take months before the final pay for the job was shuffled through the hands of the contractor / sub contractor / employee.

    Many times it was nothing more then a loose ground wire going to the antenna's on a cell tower.

    Each antenna had it's own ground from the ground to the top of the tower.
    Even if one was missing, the antenna's were still all grounded and would still work.

    It was mostly just anal.

    Last time I saw him, he was remodeling Lowes stores for $11.00 a hour, and the Lowes contractor didn't pay for food / travel or the motel room. Just gave them a $24.00 a day per diem...

    That is a heck of a pay cut from $100,000 a year as a tower crew member.
    Some people just cannot handle the stress...

    Would you climb a tower in the middle of a ice storm in Pennsylvania in the middle of the winter? or climb the tower when it is 0 degrees outside and hang from the tower for 10 or 12 hours while installing the tracks and antenna's?

    This stuff has never been done before!

    We didn't even have cell phones just 30 years ago!

    The demand for this stuff is so great and the expectations are so high, that the contractors hires people right off the street, with no tower climbing experience and puts a harness on them and tells them to climb.

    Its a lot like the mules in the old Pennsylvania coal mines.

    If a miner dies, it is no big deal, you can always get another miner.
    If a mule gets sick or dies, the mine owner has to buy another mule!

    Sometimes the equipment is worth more then the man!

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