2 Painters Rescued from MI Water Tower


State investigators are looking into what happened to cause two painters to fall into a Michigan water tower Friday (Nov. 4).

The two men, whose names have not been released but who worked for Seven Brothers Painting Inc., survived but were transported to an area hospital with serious injuries.

The accident occurred during painting and cleaning work at a 30-foot water tower in Pontiac, MI, according to The Detroit News.

Initial speculations are that the scaffolding they were using to perform maintenance work failed in some manner or the men fell from the scaffolding.

Possible 30-Foot Fall

According to reports, the accident occurred just after 3 p.m. Friday. Crew members not involved in the fall called in the emergency responders.

Fox 2 reported that the men were painting the inside of the dome from mobile scaffolding, equipment similar to that used by window washers on skyscrapers.

Waterford Township Fire Lt. John Phebus told the media, “It’s not clear if it was an equipment failure or something gave way but they fell inside the tower, which had been drained for repairs.”

He added that there were several platforms inside the tower, and that the men could have fallen a distance ranging from 15 to 30 feet.

Other sources told station WXYZ that the men were on scaffolding near the top of the tower and fell about 30 feet to a ledge 100 feet above ground level.

Rescue Operations

Emergency response crews had the men out of the tower by 5 p.m., according to a local CBS affiliate; however, Fox 2 noted that the size constraints of the access ladder inside impacted the amount of time it took for first responders to bring the men out.

A firefighter high-angle rescue team was reportedly among the departments assisting in the rescue efforts; these teams use specific techniques to perform rescues in confined space and/or high-angle environments.

"The actual tube you have to enter to bring the patient out has a very small access door," explained Dep. Chief Matt Covey of the Waterford Fire Department. "That makes it very difficult. All that equipment has to come through that space plus the patients."

In the rescue efforts, firefighters reportedly harnessed the men one at a time before a firefighter at the top of the dome lowered each down the narrow space to the teams waiting below, Covey added.

"Hundreds of hours of training these guys go through," said Covey. "Obviously today it worked. Both patients made it out and hopefully the outcome is positive."

In ‘Bad Shape’

An aerial photo from Pontiac’s NBC affiliate showed one man being carried out on a stretcher through an access door at ground level.

A fire official at the scene told the media that the men were in “bad shape,” and a police officer indicated that one had suffered broken bones.

Both were sent to hospitals for treatment; one of the men, said to be unconscious on the scene and suffering the more severe injuries of the two, was airlifted from the site by helicopter.

Both were said to be in surgery Friday night. Updated information on their conditions has not been released.

The person who answered a call to Seven Brothers Painting of Shelby Township, MI, declined to comment on the incident Tuesday (Nov. 8).

The tower is said to be operated by the Oakland County Water Resource Commission.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Confined space; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; Scaffolding; Tank interiors; Tanks; Tower; Water Tanks; Work platform

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