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posted: 2/1/2014 7:54 PM

Three die when cell towers collapse

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Associated Press

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- A 300-foot cellphone tower collapsed Saturday and minutes later a smaller tower fell, killing two contractors and a firefighter, authorities said.

The contractors were tethered to the larger tower when it collapsed in Clarksburg, State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon said. A firefighter with the Nutter Fort Fire Department was killed when he was walking from his vehicle to the scene.

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Two other contractors working on the larger tower were hurt and taken to a hospital. Waggamon described their injuries as serious but not life-threatening.

Waggamon said three of the workers were more than 60 feet up on the tower. One of those workers was killed along with a co-worker who was about 20 feet up when the tower toppled.

Two other workers at the site were not injured.

Waggamon said the weight of the collapsed tower put stress on guide wires to the smaller tower.

The crew was doing maintenance to strengthen the tower's support when the accident occurred, Waggamon said. He said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate.

The towers are owned by SBA Communications, which hired workers from S&S Communications to remove the tall tower's diagonal supports and replace them with new ones. Phone messages left with the companies were not returned Saturday evening.

Steven Thompson, a member of the Summit Park Volunteer Fire Department, said about three dozen people from eight fire departments in the area responded. He said rescue personnel had to use four-wheel-drive and all-terrain vehicles because snow had made a mess of the gravel road leading to the site, which was on a ridge about 200 feet above a main road. He said the first crews still arrived 10 to 15 minutes after the call.

The victims' names were not immediately released.

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