Aftershock

Updated below with remarks from photographer / live truck operator Leonard Raglin.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been investigating the near-tragic accident that destroyed a WSB live truck and sent a reporter and photographer to Grady hospital.  Cox insiders say WSB is “trying to downplay” the incident out of embarrassment and fear that the station may face fines and / or damages.  Aside from a piece on the station’s web site (and a brief mention on a newscast or two), the station has done no follow-ups on the story.

Truck operator / photog Leonard Raglin drove out of the parking lot at the Fulton County Jail following a live shot at noon Wednesday.  He drove out without first stowing his telescoping microwave mast, extending some forty feet up.  As he drove onto Rice Street, the mast hit some 115,000 volt transmission lines, creating an electrical explosion.

Tom Jones, WSB

Reporter Tom Jones agreed to answer some e-mailed questions.

What was the shock / explosion like?

The explosion sounded like something out of Baghdad. It was horrific and rocked the van.

Were you able to keep your wits about you?  How?
It was very difficult to keep my wits because of the smoke that quickly filled the truck. Then I noticed fire in the back quickly approaching. My photographer was the hero because his training quickly kicked in. He repeatedly pleaded with me not to get out. I wanted to get out because the smoke had overwhelmed me. He made sure it was safe to get out on his side and then properly bunny hopped his way out. He then encouraged me to do the same.
What kind of damage was done to your person, clothes, phones, accessories?
The fire burned holes in my suit, singed my hair and burned my briefcase.
Any way to explain the lapse in protocol following the live shot and the failure to stow the mast?
Management is investigating the issues surrounding the mast.
Will you be able to work in a live truck again?
Of course I’ll be able to get inside a live truck again.  As a matter of fact I can’t wait. Life goes on. And I’m very fortunate to be able to say that.
Glad you came out of the accident in one piece.  I know everybody in the market shares that sentiment.
I appreciate your support and kind words. We are truly blessed to be alive.

===

The investigation to which Jones diplomatically refers includes the discovery that the truck’s audible alarm had been disabled.   In addition, a flashing light alarm had been been covered with duct tape, say Cox insiders.   It’s believed the alarm had been disabled before Raglin and Jones used the vehicle that morning.

As discussed here previously, this isn’t unusual.  I’ve worked in a truck whose mast alarm would sound whenever the truck hit a bump in the road, even though the mast was properly stowed.  I’ve worked with a photog who’d learned how to disable the alarm by reaching under the dash with one hand while driving down the highway, and disconnecting a wire coupling.

Leonard Raglin, WSB

WSB News Director Marian Pittman visited Jones and Raglin at Grady following the accident.  She told a staff meeting the following morning that the employees were still in a mental state of shock hours later.

The accident traumatized the entire staff, we’re told.  Pittman was tearful while leading the staff meeting, during which she implored employees to take no shortcuts, safety-wise.

Raglin is an experienced, talented and widely-respected veteran of the Atlanta market; if one were to create a list of folks capable of such an oversight, Raglin would be near the bottom of the list.  His involvement proves that this could happen to anybody.

Late Friday, Raglin sent the following note to LAF.

Thanks for the concern. God gives much grace in spite of me. He protected Tom and me.

Obviously, the mast was up when it should not have been. Georgia Power comes to mind as someone I thank God for. A free seminar they held trained many photogs and reporters how to properly exit a van on powerlines if absolutely needed.

Frightful yes.

Will I ever work in a livetruck again. Of course, but never without a reminder of my own making (besides the reminders already clearly present in each truck.)

Doug tell your readers that a very experienced photographer and technician did something he never dreamed he’d do… even stopped others from doing. That’s driving off with the mast up. When routine things don’t get their proper attention anymore, you can become blind to the obvious. Look up and live!

This post now includes a correct photo of Raglin.  Thanks to “murrow” for pointing out an earlier incorrect photo.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

12 thoughts on “Aftershock

  1. Pingback: OSHA looking at WSB truck shock? | Political Insider

  2. Ryan

    That is some SCARY stuff. It’s really concerning that someone took the time to disable the audible alarm AND THEN DUCT TAPE THE LIGHT. How can a light POSSIBLY be that annoying?

    Just like my chief photog from back in Columbus, GA used to say: LOOK UP AND LIVE!

    Reply
    1. live apt fire Post author

      Without justifying the disabling of the alarm, the answer to your question is: A bright flashing light inside a live truck could be a challenging distraction while driving at night, perhaps while navigating with a map book.

      Reply
  3. tvb

    Incredibly frightening and unfortunate.

    It’s yet another fallout of cost-cutting measures in local news. There was a day when trucks had a dedicated operator who didn’t have to juggle a million tasks such as shooting, editing, dealing with a cranky AE and producer, setting the shot, dialing IFB, and get the microwave tuned in.

    In no way am I trying to cast blame but it’s just another example of how the almighty corporate cost-saving maneuver almost cost two people their life.

    I’m happy to know that the crew will live and I further hope that this unfortunate event is an important lesson for newsrooms everywhere.

    Reply
  4. dcb

    Give us a break tvb. Blaming it on big business for not providing a dedicated driver when this was not so simply a matter of operator oversight for failing to retract the boom in the first place is lame. It sounds as if you’d also be first in line to expect government intervention and the establishment of a czar position and new federal department to oversee the operation of all trucks that have booms on them in the future.

    Reply
  5. Baylink

    What tvb said.

    I’m thinking about maybe something you have to take off to reach the mast switch which you can *clip to the steering wheel*. Interlocks are the proper solution, though; but you have to maintain them properly.

    Reply
  6. Jerod

    Looking at the posts above I would add this:

    We have basically 2 options:
    1. play the blame game
    2. take responsibility both individually and corporately for the safety of ALL persons we work with; not just ourselves.

    With option 1 nobody wins and we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. With option 2, there is hope that we may learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others and corporately watch out for one another.

    Everyone is a link in the chain of safety. When just one link fails, people get hurt. Operators need to be properly trained to operate the equipment and understand the safety systems in place. When a problem with the equipment arises, they need to communicate that with engineering who needs to fix the problem promptly. And management needs to make sure there is financial backing for the engineer to do his job. We all need to ask ourselves, “am I a weak link?” If the answer comes back a YES, then it’s time to take responsibility and do something about it besides complain and blame others.

    I too am glad these operators are OK.

    Reply
  7. DeadBeatBert

    Unfortunately this has nothing to do with the corporate beast unless the safety systems were disabled by their directive.

    The safety systems in the truck are a secondary failsafe. The fact that they were covered and/or disabled is irrelevant.

    However, both of the previous statements are irrelevant. The operator (and reporter) are the primary safety systems with a live truck. “Look up and live.” We all learn it, we all teach it.

    There is station wide fault with operation, training and safety management. The operator should be fired for negligence, the reporter at least suspended (everyone is responsible for safety on a live shot) and the engineer/s in charge of keeping the live truck in operating condition should be fired for allowing the safety systems to be deactivated by operators.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Fined by OSHA « live apartment fire

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