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Worker dies on TV tower in Shoreview

SHOREVIEW (AP) -- A worker died Tuesday as he was painting a 1,400-foot-tall television and radio antenna tower in Shoreview.

Investigators were trying to determine exactly what happened that led to the man's death on the tower, which is owned by KMSP-TV, Channel 9.

He was in his safety harness across a beam about 500 feet up the tower when a co-worker spotted him from below about 9:45 a.m. hanging motionless, partially blocking the tower's elevator, said Lake Johanna Deputy Fire Chief Tim Boehlke.

The co-worker climbed to the man, shouting down to rescuers until he could reach the victim. Once there, the co-worker used the victim's radio to talk with medics on the ground, said Ramsey Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Goeritz.

The co-worker and four or five people who had been working on a similar TV tower about three-fourths of a mile away each made an arduous 500-foot climb up a ladder to reach the man, Boehlke said.

"They were instrumental in bringing this guy down," Boehlke said. "They were the heroes."

Boehlke said they were able to pull the victim to the side and out of the way of the elevator, then used it to lower the man to a platform about 30 feet above the ground, where rescuers from the Lake Johanna, White Bear Lake and Minneapolis fire departments took over. Their attempts at reviving the man after he was lowered to the ground at about 11 a.m. were unsuccessful.

The man was a painter from Colorado. His name and age weren't released, pending notification of the family. The Ramsey County medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Boehlke said the victim was bleeding, but that it was unclear whether that happened in a fall or whether something could have fallen on the victim.

"From everything we could determine, it sounded like this person had already expired" when he was found by his co-worker, Boehlke said. "He was hanging motionless, kind of sideways. It did appear that he was blocking the path of the elevator."

George Altendorfer, Ramsey County undersheriff, said it was unclear whether the worker's safety belt had failed. State and federal investigators have been notified, including the Federal Communications Commission, he said.

Besides KMSP-TV, the tower transmits broadcasts of WFTC-TV, Channel 29; KTCA-TV, Channel 2; and KTCI-TV, Channel 17; plus 10 FM radio stations.

Other Twin Cities TV stations -- WCCO-TV, Channel 4; KSTP-TV; Channel 5, and KARE-TV, Channel 11 -- own a pair of towers at a different complex about three-quarters of a mile away, which is where the other rescuers had been working. In 1971, seven people were killed at that site when a 1,285-foot tower collapsed. They included six workmen who were at the top of that tower and a supervisor who was on the ground.