Authorities are searching for answers to what caused scaffolding to tumble around a 100-story Miami Gardens TV tower, killing three workers during an attempt to install a new transmission antenna.
The tragedy, which is being investigated by the Miami Gardens Police Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the deadliest communications tower construction worker accident to be investigated by the federal agency in more than five years.
OSHA has investigated about 30 fatal construction cases at communications towers since 2012, according to an agency spreadsheet, including a communications tower collapse in February 2014 that killed two workers and a responding firefighter in Clarksburg, West Virginia. But until Wednesday, no more than two workers had been killed in any single incident investigated by the workplace safety agency.
Little information on what had caused the scaffolding around the tower to collapse had been released by Thursday afternoon. The team of workers — Brachton Barber, 23; Marcus Goffena, 31 and Benito Rodriguez, 35 — employed by the Cedar Hill, Texas-based company Tower Kings II, was replacing a new antenna for WSVN-Channel 7 when the scaffolding went down, according to WPLG-Local 10.
According to a statement from the Miami Gardens Police Department, all three were attached with safety straps to the gin pole supported by the tower when the pole malfunctioned and fell.
Channel 10 engineer Juan Rodriguez, who was on the ground during the incident, told the station that he and others fled as the pole crashed mid-operation. “The crane operator started screaming and crying that they were dead on the floor,” he said.
There were conflicting reports on how high the men were when the gin pole they were working at collapsed, but Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt said the workers were near the top of the more-than-1,000-foot tower when the scaffolding went down.
Michael D’Aquino, a regional spokesman of OSHA, said the agency had opened a preliminary investigation but declined to provide details. The identities of the employees have not been released pending results from the medical examiner and until relatives are notified, Noel-Pratt said.
The tower, at 501 NW 207th St., was completed in 2009 and has transmitted a signal from that year on. Both WPLG and WSVN use the tower, which is owned by by Miami Tower LLC, which has the same Pembroke Park address as WPLG.
Tower King II did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The company was fined a total of $600 for two sets of “serious” safety violations in 2008 and 2011, according to a search of agency records, though additional information on the reasons for the fines was not available.
In a statement, WSVN-TV owner and president Edmund Ansin expressed regret over the accident Wednesday.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of the three men who died,” he said in the statement. “They worked for a company hired by Channel 7 to perform work on the tower that was required by the FCC.”