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Tower Worker Who Fell Returns to Smith Hill

UTICA-ROME — Two of the three men who fell from a Smith Hill broadcast tower on Monday have been released from the hospital… and one of the workers has already returned to climb the tower again.

According to NBC affiliate WKTV, workers from Manlius-based Alpha Antenna Services were back on Smith Hill yesterday, removing part of the old W59AU antenna that buckled on Monday, causing three workers to fall as far as 40 feet.  WKTV reported the crew on-duty Wednesday included one of the men who fell Monday, but it did not identify the worker by name.

While the tower sits on WKTV’s property, it hasn’t been used to broadcast WKTV’s signal since WKTV moved from channel 13 to channel 2 (and a new transmitter site near Middleville) decades ago. The climbers were working on behalf of Syracuse PBS affiliate WCNY. Translator W59AU carried WCNY-TV’s programming to viewers in Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego counties.

The plan on Monday was to upgrade W59AU from analog to digital, bringing high-definition programming and WCNY’s three subchannels to the market.  While the men were being hoisted up the tower, the antenna buckled, causing slack in the cable, which in turn caused the men to fall. 

Fearing that the dangling antenna could fall, WKTV evacuated its main building — including the newsroom, master control and studio — resulting in the station not having a noon newscast, and for some reason, WKTV broadcasting CW network programming instead of NBC.  Later in the afternoon, it was determined there was no risk of the antenna falling, and employees were re-admitted to the building in time to get the station’s early evening newscast on the air.

According to WKTV, workers on Wednesday removed an 11-foot section of the old W59AU antenna, which had been dangling since Monday’s incident. Crews said they planned to return to Smith Hill to remove the rest of the antenna today. As for the upgrade to HD, a WCNY representative told WKTV “it could be anywhere from two to three weeks” before a new antenna arrives and gets installed.

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