NIOSH logo and tagline

Volunteer Fire Fighter Killed Rescuing Injured Construction Worker When Struck by Collapsing Cell Phone Tower – West Virginia


FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2014-03 Date Released: January 20, 2015

Executive Summary

On February 1, 2014, a 28-year-old male volunteer fire fighter died after being struck by a collapsing cell phone tower. The fire fighter was rescuing an injured construction worker who had been hurt during the collapse of a separate cell phone tower located on the same site. He and three other fire fighters were dragging the injured maintenance worker out of the danger zone of the first collapsed tower when a second tower collapsed and struck him as he attempted to run away. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. The initial tower collapse occurred during scheduled maintenance to reinforce the tower.

Contributing Factors

  • Sequential collapses of two cell phone towers
  • Ineffective Incident Command
  • Lack of situational awareness
  • Lack of training for the specific incident response
  • Lack of an Incident Safety Officer.

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should develop, implement and enforce an occupational safety and health program in accordance with NFPA 1500 Standard for a Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program
  • Fire departments should ensure that the incident commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning operations, establishes a stationary command post, maintains the role of director of the incident scene and does not become involved in operations
  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are trained in situational awareness, personal safety, and accountability
  • Fire departments should develop pre-incident plans for deployment to technical rescue incidents and conduct a risk benefit analysis for the deployment
  • Fire departments should ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at technical rescue incidents
  • Fire departments, especially volunteer departments, should consider limiting their special operations functions to those that they are properly trained and equipped for.


Read the full report


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.

For further information, visit the program Web site at or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).