Chopper crash kills four, requiring a complicated rigging plan to save the fate of two towers
commandos behind enemy lines under cover of night.
June 2, 2006 - Four members of an elite unit, known as the Night Stalkers, died yesterday when their MH-47E Chinook helicopter struck a broadcast tower in Doerun, GA. The tactical units fly Special Forces
The Army crew was flying a training mission from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA., to Fort Rucker, AL, the United States Army Special Operations Command said, when it crashed into the WFXL TV's 1,000-foot-tall broadcast tower that is surrounded by cow pastures and cotton fields.
The co-pilot, the only survivor of the violent 8:00 a.m. crash, has an abrasion on his forehead, a scraped arm, and an injury to the back of his leg, according to a woman on the scene who rendered assistance to him. He was treated and released from a local medical facility.
Officials were uncertain whether the collision with the television tower caused the crash or whether the helicopter was already in trouble. A team from Fort Rucker will investigate.
Initial media reports stated that the Chinook crashed to the ground after clipping a guy wire. However, the extensive damage to the top section of the guyed tower indicates that the helicopter's blades came in contact with the structure. .
The fuselage of the helicopter came to rest about 150 yards from the transmitter building, according to station manager Deborah Owens. She said the station's transmitter building did not appear to have been struck although given the instability of the tower and the presence of the military cordon, a thorough building inspection had not been conducted.
Herculean task ahead to assess and repair structure
WFXL's tower's stability is severely compromised and possibly near failure since the helicopter's impact deformed the entire top section of the tower about six inches or more and took out two panels, approximately 8-12', of diagonal and horizontal bracing.
The structure is also endangering WALB's tower which has interlaced guy wires and is located approximately 60' away from the base of WFXL's tower. Following the crash, the east leg guy wire fell to the ground, but did not foul the interlaced guy wires of the WALB broadcast tower. Both are owned by Raycom Media of Montgomery, AL.
A structural engineer from Stainless LLC was on site this morning to help to assess the damage and assist ProCom Towers International, Inc. in formulating a rigging plan. Crew members from Monarch Towers Services LLC will also assist ProCom's president, R. David Stiles.
Stiles has been in the broadcast tower erection and maintenance industry since 1969 and has worked on every project imaginable; however, he said the WFXL structure "is a worse case scenario because you are dealing with a tower that has a 6,800-pound antenna cantilevered on the top and a top section that is seriously compromised and could easily fail."
He said that it appears that the helicopter was going from east to west and hit the tower about 20-feet down from the top of the structure, a PiRod solid rod guyed tower.
Stiles had planned on using a helicopter today to assess the tower damage, but he said that the FAA has provided a temporary flight restriction over the crash site area until military officials have performed a full investigation.
WirelessEstimator.com will be frequently updating this article with ProCom's progress and photographs pertaining to one of the most challenging rigging projects ever undertaken.