Truck Manufacturer Accepts Responsibilty for Pa. Tower Ladder Failure

Officials at the Belle Valley Fire Department said improper cables installed on its tower truck during a rebuild two years ago are blamed for causing an accident with the rig's ladder that injured three firefighters on June 26.

The truck's manufacturer, Sutphen Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, has accepted responsibility and will pick up the truck today to make the necessary repairs at no cost to Belle Valley, department President Jeff Skonieczki said.

Two Belle Valley firefighters and a member of the Wattsburg Hose Co. were in the truck's bucket that was about 80 feet in the air outside of the Wattsburg Hose Co. station on June 26 when raising and lowering cables snapped and the ladder closed suddenly. The firefighters suffered neck, back and knee injuries, officials said.

The firefighters were taken to UPMC Hamot for treatment. The last was released from the hospital on Friday.

Sutphen Corp. officials are trying to determine exactly what caused the cable failure, Skonieczki said. He said their investigation into the accident determined that the wrong raising and lowering cables were placed on the truck when the ladder was rebuilt after suffering major chemical damage while at a fire at a building on Iroquois Avenue in Harborcreek Township on May 14, 2011. The building housed American Biodiesel Energy Inc. and North American Powder Coatings.

Skonieczki said this morning that Sutphen Corp. continues to investigate whether the improper cable installation was caused by employee error, mismarked inventor or an identification error by a supplier.

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