Bithlo, FL Broadcasting Tower Collapse, Jun 1973



Orlando, Fla. (UPI) - EUGENE HOBBY was working 40 feet up on a giant broadcasting tower once billed as the tallest structure in the world when it collapsed into a pile of rubble Friday, killing two persons and injuring two others.
HOBBY, who was helping install a coaxial cable, first knew of trouble when he heard someone on the ground scream "Headache! Headache!" - a code word among tower workers meaning something's falling.
Suddenly the 1,484-foot broadcast tower, more than 22 stories taller than the Empire State Building, began buckling and swaying.
"I just grabbed hold of a piece of that tower and hung on," said HOBBY, 21, from his hospital bed Friday night. "It was like the sky coming down. It was like heavy rain falling."
"It just snapped off. I remember a section of it came shooting by me like a railroad train. It happened so fast I couldn't really say what exactly did happen."
Somehow HOBBY managed to jump free of the falling steel.
"It was just like riding down a pine tree," he said. "Yes just spring away."
Two other workmen on the tower, TOMMY SAUNDERS and W. DENNIS MILLER, of the Tower Maintenance of Florida Co., were killed. SHERMAN PENNY, a WDBO radio engineer, was injured when the falling debris caused a transmitting building to partially cave in. The collapse left a pile of steel rubble 20 feet high.
HOBBY and PENNY were hospitalized in satisfactory condition.
Investigators were trying today to determine the cause of the accident. The tower collapsed at Bithlo, Fla., about five miles from here shortly after President Nixon made a commencement address at the Orlando campus of Florida Technological University.
The owner of the tower maintenance
firm and brother of one of the victims, Mark Saunders, helped rescuers free his brother's body from the tangled metal.
Saunders said he thought the structure "was under heavy stress. It was possibly overloaded and had too many antennas on it."
Built four years ago, the tower had a capacity to withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour and was supported by three inch thick steel cables weighing 14 tons each.
The structure, owned by TV Tower Inc., was insured for $3 million. It was equipped with an elevator to the top and was used by news photographers and cameramen covering space launches from Cape Kennedy.

News-Journal Mansfield Ohio 1973-06-09