What happened in Majuro early Wednesday morning by the airport water reservoir is the kind of unexpected accident that would show in one of Ripley’s Believe it or Not episodes.
Here’s what happened: A National Telecommunication Authority cellular phone tower fell onto a moving flatbed vehicle around 1am Wednesday morning across from the airport water reservoir. The heavy, 80-foot tower collapsed on top of the driver’s cab and rolled onto the flatbed, trapping a 19-year old in the process before rolling off the vehicle.
“That thing came and caught me inside it before rolling off,” 19-year old Samuel Tallen told the Journal. Samuel was one of five passengers sitting in the back of the flatbed truck when the incident occurred.
What’s shocking is the fact that Samuel, who said he was inside the tower as it rolled, was able to walk away from the crash with a bruise on his shoulder, a black eye and stitches on his neck. What’s even more remarkable is the fact that holes from the tower pockmarked his shirt, yet he wasn’t bleeding from the abdominal area.
The other victim is driver 48-year old Christopher Patrick. Patrick was wearing a neck-brace when the Journal visited Majuro hospital’s emergency ward Wednesday morning. His X-ray indicated no breakage to the vertebrae.
In addition to injuring passengers of a truck early Wednesday morning, the collapse of NTA’s cell phone tower damaged Marshalls Energy Company power lines, initially causing a power outage from the power plant to Laura.
As the tower went down, it took out overhead power lines by the airport reservoir. This had the knock-on impact of breaking a guide wire holding a power pole across the MWSC’s water pumping station.
MEC crews had to replace the guide wire, which involved two bucket trucks, multiple distribution workers, and other equipment. Power was restored after a short time from the power plant to the junction box located in Rairok next to Senator Kessai Note’s residence. Power from Rairok to Laura was not restored until early afternoon Wednesday, once MEC completed all repair work.
The tower also crashed into some of the solar panels that line MWSC’s reservoir across the road from NTA tower location. It damaged a handful of panels in a 20-panel section that MEC said will probably reduce by about five percent the solar power currently being delivered daily into MEC’s power grid.
The loss of this tower is expected to impact cell phone service in the Ajeltake area, as well as possibly traffic for the downtown area. NTA CEO Tommy Kijiner, Jr. said this tower primarily serviced Ajeltake cell phone users. NTA staff were already planning to install temporary cell communication “pods” at the airport to pick up some of the capital’s cell phone traffic.
NTA had also placed 4G transmitting equipment on this tower, which was damaged when the tower fell, and will impact the rollout of the new mobile service. “I’m not sure how far this will set us back (on the 4G system),” Kijiner said Wednesday.
Four new towers had been ordered last year by NTA and are already on island waiting for installation, said Kijiner. The new towers are 120 feet tall, compared to the downed one at 80 feet. Three of the new 120-foot towers are for Majuro, one is for Ebeye.
Read more about this in the March 3, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.