A 31-year-old man, Christopher Thompson, died after falling 40 feet inside of a wind turbine. He was working in Story County, Iowa. Most of the facts for this report comes via the Story County Sheriff’s Office. Katrina added a news item, Iowa Man Dies Working in a Wind Turbine. Today I want to comment on it, although at this point little is known that would explain why he fell. Apparently his fall protection gear did arrest his fall.

I like to write, and as a lawyer you have to like to write, which I do often for our blog. But there are weeks, when time is short and the demands great. These last few weeks have been like that. I have been busy in depositions involving a miner who died at the Ames Martin Marietta Mine. As I catch up with the office work I will get back into postings. Attorney Lombardi

Let’s see if any news source is publishing more details about Mr. Thompson’s accident.

The Ames Tribune provides some facts: We know he fell forty feet. He was inside a wind turbine when he fell. He was 31 years old. He died at the scene and so it is likely he died from the fall. He was wearing a safety harness and had been working as high as 80 to 90 feet. There was a lot of heat in the turbine and there is some speculation heat may have been a factor. Apparently the harness was clipped in and did hold him because according to this report he didn’t hit the ground. So one has to wonder if the heat didn’t cause him to pass out, faint and then fall in somewhat of an unprotected fashion. Was he dehydrated? Did he succumb to dehydration, pass out and that caused him to fall?

“According to the National Weather Service in Des Moines, the high temperature in Ames on Thursday was 94 degrees with a index of 114 degrees. Officials with the weather service said they could not say how hot it could get in a turbine, but that tests done in cars showed temperatures can get 15-20 degrees hotter inside a car.

The harness kept Thompson from hitting the ground, but he was left suspended about 30 feet in the air, Lennie said.”

Clearly he has a workers’ compensation claim for the medical and death benefits. If he was married or if not but had minor dependents then they would have a death benefit claim. Some adults can have a death claim if the worker to whom they are dependent dies at work.

Here is another wrinkle in the facts, there is some reference to the rescue crew not having the right equipment to perform the rescue. I’m not blaming them but this is something to know. Perhaps in the counties where wind farms exist certain rescue equipment needs to be made available to retrieve a disable worker unable to climb down on his own power. Sort of like a crevasse rescue we perform in the mountains.

“Fagen said small, rural volunteer departments don’t have the training or equipment to easily respond to cases like the one they went to on Thursday. The company behind the project did have a team available that responded to the rescue call, Fagen said.”

Wind turbine workers need to know more about hydration and dehydration. There are six signs of dehydration. They are below.

  1. Bad breath
  2. Dry skin
  3. Muscle cramps
  4. Fever and chills
  5. Cravings for sweets
  6. Headache

In mountaineering we have a rule you should be drinking at least half of a Nalgene bottle of water every hour. And you should be peeing clear; if yellow you’re not drinking enough. And if you think I’m kidding read here.

  • Check your urine. If you’re well-hydrated your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow, Higgins explains. Yellow, chardonnay, and orange are the “warning” colors to watch for. When your body is about three percent dehydrated your urine will be noticeably yellow. When your body is about five percent dehydrated, your urine will appear chardonnay-colored. When your body is more than five percent dehydrated – which is considered severely dehydrated – your urine will appear orange.

This is an unfortunate accidental death. The coroner will certainly look at the blood chemistry as will the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will want to know more about toxins, alcohol or drugs in his system, if any. Not that any amount disqualifies his dependents, but enough can.

I’ve covered wind turbine accidents on the Verdict (the name of our blog), as far back as 2006. If you have legal questions about fall protection requirements, worker’s compensation death benefits, fault suits on the part of other parties or wrongful death benefits please call us. We have assisted several clients who are wind turbine workers. That work has covered workers’’ compensation benefits and personal injury claims.

Additional Blogs of Interest

Wind Power Workers Have A Special Risk for Workers' Compensation Injuries

Wind farm workers are higher risk for injury and death from fatigue

Do Wind Turbine Widows and Orphans Receive Lifetime Work Comp Benefits?

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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