Mayor Don Wesely and Governor Mike Johanns participated today in "Tribute to Courage," an event to honor the team from the Lincoln Fire Department who recovered an accident victim from a television tower in Bassett April 22: Deputy Chief Ron Kennett, Captain Rick Klein and Firefighters Bob Borer, Jeremy Hosek, Guy Jones and Mike Wright. The Mayor issued a proclamation declaring today Firefighter Recognition Day in Lincoln, and Governor Johanns presented team members with Admiralships in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.
"All citizens of Lincoln and Nebraska can take pride in the Firefighters’ tremendous courage, strength and commitment to duty in the face of a difficult and dangerous rescue," Mayor Wesely read from the proclamation. "I urge all citizens to acknowledge the bravery and dedication of the Firefighters who serve our community."
Also speaking today were Fire Chief Mike Spadt and Rod Bates, General Manager of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET), who presented the Fire Department with a plaque in appreciation for the recovery effort. The 1,500-foot-tall tower on which the accident occurred is part of the NET system.
The man killed in the accident, Timothy Culpepper of Meridian, Mississippi, was part of a crew installing a new cable and transmission line on the tower about 15 miles south of Bassett. It is believed Culpepper was killed instantly when a steel cable snapped about 12:45 p.m. His body was about 1,180 feet above ground.
After an air rescue was determined to be impossible due to winds, tower wires and lack of expertise, Lincoln Fire and Rescue was called about 2:15 p.m. The six-person crew was flown to Bassett in a Nebraska State Patrol aircraft, usually used by the Governor’s Office. Deputy Chief Kennett and Captain Klein directed the recovery operation from the ground. The four firefighters climbed the tower with Bill Carr and Jeff Keezer, Firefighters with the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. The Firefighters climbed for an hour-and-a half to reach the accident victim. They lowered the body 300 feet at a time, and it took more than three hours to make the descent. The operation ended just after midnight.
"This was an unusual situation, but our Firefighters demonstrated the physical and mental readiness that is required in all emergencies," said Chief Spadt. "I am very proud of their professionalism, dedication and commitment to assisting wherever they are needed."