Missouri TV Tower Collapses

At least one worker is dead and three others are injured after the station tower of Ozarks Public Television's KOZK-TV collapsed in Fordland, Mo., KYTV-TV of Springfield, Mo., has reported. 

KYTV said the tower collapsed Thursday morning (April 19) while a crew of seven was working on it.

The noncommercial station is a PBS affiliate owned by Missouri State University.

That station is being repacked from channel 23 to channel 16, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, and is in the FCC's first phase of stations needing to move to new channels -- the move must be completed by the end of this year.

Whether the tower work was related to the repack had not been determined, though there will be much tower work involved in a move affecting most of a thousand stations.

The station had a 2,000-foot tower built in 2003, according to the NAB.

KOZK executives were not available for comment at press time, but the Springfield News-Leader quoted MSU spokeswoman Andrea Mostyn at the scene as saying the station was "conducting some tower...modifications to comply with some FCC changes to channels."

According to an automatic e-mail response, Ozark's chief engineer was scheduled to be out of the office until April 23.

NAB has expressed concerns about safety with so much tower work needed to meet the repack deadlines.

Suzanne Shaw, VP for marketing and communications for Missouri State University, confirmed that the crew was working on repack-related equipment issues rather than routine maintenance. 

"They were adding reinforcements to accommodate the new equipment associated with channel repacking," she said.

Shaw said the crew was working at about the 105 ft.-level of the 1,980 ft. tower when they sensed something was wrong and were getting off the tower when it collapsed. She said there were six crew members working on the tower, with one fatality--one crew member was caught under the tower--and minor injuries to others, though she said they were non-life threatening and that they had all been released from a local hospital.

The university was reaching out to the family of the killed worker and providing support to the other members of the crew, giving them transportation and working with them on arranging their trip home--they are based in Washington State.

She said the crew was from a subcontractor for a larger tower company.Shaw said KOZK-TV remains off the air, and that the collapse also affected the NOAH weather station, but not KSMU, the university radio station, which was not co-located. 

Shaw said she had no estimate on when the station would be back on the air, but said they were talking with local broadcasters to partner with them in some way.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.