A safety harness malfunction left a climber stuck on a cell tower, Jan. 16, facing chilling winter temperatures and winds in a small northeast Kansas town. SiteMaster employee April Zumbrum was alone on the 190-foot tower in Strong City about 20 miles from Emporia, Kan., doing an audit for Commnet Wireless, but a coworker on the ground called 911 for help.
Chase County Sheriff’s Office, Chase County Rescue, EMS and Emporia Fire Department all responded, but none had access to a high-angle rescue team. With sub-freezing wind chill lowering her core temperature, Sheriff Richard Dorneker said it was critical to get the climber off of the tower as quickly as possible.
SiteMaster was able to notify another tower climbing crew, en route to another job, which was miraculously only three miles east of Strong City were able to respond to the tower site in short order. They had the required safety rescue equipment to get Zumbrun safely off the top of the tower.
“The two responding tower climbers went up, attached the climbing ropes and one climber removed Zumbrun from the top of the tower, harnessing her to his harness and repelled with her down the west side of the tower,” Dorneker said.
Zumbrun spent an hour and a half on the tower. After the rescue, she was then taken a regional health center to be treated for possible hypothermia. Since then, she has been released from the hospital.