HANOVER – A construction worker who fell 24 feet Friday morning had to be carefully lowered through a series of hatchways inside Hanover’s 210-foot wind turbine before being rushed to the hospital.
The 53-year-old man, who Hanover Fire Chief Jeffrey Blanchard identified as Ernest Ray, of Harwich, was taken to South Shore Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Blanchard said Ray was “conscious and stable” when rescue crews arrived on the scene around 9:20 a.m. Friday.
Blanchard said Ray is an employee for Lumus Construction, the company erecting the turbine. He was listed in good condition at South Shore Hospital on Friday night.
Duxbury Fire Chief Kevin Nord said the rescue was the first at a turbine in Plymouth County, though the county’s regional specialized rescue team had been training for a response like the one carried out Friday.
“It was just a matter of time, because of the wind-power surge in the southeast,” said Nord, who serves as the chief’s liaison for the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team.
Hanover Fire Chief Jeffrey Blanchard said Hanover firefighters were the first on the scene and were able to climb the tower and administer initial medical aid.
The technical team, which included 28 members and units from as far away as Onset, arrived a short time later and worked to immobilize the man and set up rigging to lower him 40 feet down to the base of the tower, Nord said. It took crews over an hour to get the man out of the tower so he could be taken to the hospital.
Nord said the man was secured in a basket and carefully lowered vertically through a series of hatchways in platforms between his position and the entrance at the bottom of the tower.
“It was a very cramped, confined area,” Blanchard said.
The tower, which was erected over the summer adjacent to the town’s water plant near the intersection of Pond Street and Route 53, was undergoing final work and was not yet operational.
Town Manager Troy Clarkson said several faulty parts had recently been replaced and the turbine was close to being commissioned.
Clarkson said the company building the turbine is responsible for the structure until it is turned over to the town. He said he did not expect the town would have any liability for Ray’s injuries.
Fire officials could not say Friday whether the man was wearing a safety harness at the time of his fall. A representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was at the site Friday morning and spokesman Andre Bowser confirmed that an inspection had been opened.
The $790,000 turbine was funded through state grants and water department funds. Once operational, it is expected to provide up to 60 percent of the power used by the town’s water plant.
Friday’s rescue was a first for the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team, a group of first responders from across the county specially trained for rope rescues, operations in confined space, trench and structural collapses, large animal rescues and underwater dive operations. The team has been around for around 15 years, but Chief Nord said the group has ramped up operations in the last five years with the help of funding from the Homeland Security Administration.
Nord said the team had trained in confined-area rescues in anticipation of an emergency response on the inside of any of the turbine tower built on the South Shore in the last year. He said said several members are also planning to participate in exercises next spring that would prepare them for rescues on the outside of the turbines, particularly around the blades.
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