Purchase photos

Water tower the scene of rescue after fall




Special to The Hays Daily News

SOLOMON -- Salina firefighters rescued a man who had fallen about 30 feet to the bottom of the tank on the Solomon water tower about noon Tuesday after he had finished cleaning the inside of the empty tank.

Division Chief Larry Hemphill of the Salina Fire Department said members of the Salina Fire Department's Technical Rescue Team climbed the 150-foot tower and rescued the man, whose name and age were not released.

"He had been climbing out of the tower when a ladder failure occurred and he fell to the bottom," Hemphill said. "Our guys climbed into the tower and tried to assess the patient. They found he was medically sound with no fractures."

The man, who works for Utility Services Group,, was taken at 1:45 p.m. by Dickinson County ambulance to Salina Regional Health Center for evaluation because he was complaining of back pain.

Firefighters had prepared to lift the man through the top of the tower, but instead lowered him down a 100-foot tube that leads to the 150,000-gallon storage tank.

"Initially, we thought we would have to work out of the top of the tower, which would have been more difficult," Hemphill said. "We packaged him up and brought him through the center tube."

A firefighter rappelled down the center of the tower with the man, and he was removed from the tower through a circular opening at the bottom that was about 15 inches across.

Dan Britt, Solomon public works director, said the tower was being inspected and cleaned by workers with Utility Services Group.

"We had to drain the tower and they came in and took some photos and cleaned sediment out of the system," Britt said.

Britt said the central tube of the tower normally is filled with water. He said this was the first incident in Solomon in which someone fell into the tower.

Hemphill said rescuers had planned to use an aerial fire truck, which can reach heights of 100 feet, to assist in the rescue but muddy conditions prohibited the 70-ton truck from reaching the site.

A Salina fire truck became mired in the mud and had to be pulled out by Solomon city crews using a front-end loader. Gravel had to be brought in so that some of the vehicles could park.

The ambulance was parked on a paved road nearby, so that it wouldn't become stuck in the mud; after the man was removed from the tower, he was placed in a small truck and driven to the ambulance.

Hemphill said the technical rescue team trains for tower rescues. He said he has personally been involved in tower rescues in Tescott, Ellsworth and now Solomon.

"These are one of the more common rescues," Hemphill said.

Hemphill said the Salina technical rescue team is also called Kansas Task Force 8 and trains at Crisis City, west of Salina. He said the team responds to emergencies in 12 counties when needed.

The Fort Riley Fire Department technical rescue team was also at Solomon in case Salina firefighters needed assistance.