A man working on the construction of a wind turbine near Huxley has died after he fell at least 40 feet inside the turbine, officials with the Story County Sheriff’s Office said.
Christopher Thompson, 31, of Manly, fell late Thursday afternoon in the wind turbine being built at 535th Avenue near Huxley. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities didn’t immediately release the name of the company he worked for.
Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Nick Lennie said Thompson was wearing a safety harness at the time. He was working as high as 80 to 90 feet when he fell, Lennie said.
It’s not clear what caused Thompson to fall, Lennie said, but Huxley Fire Chief Garrett Fagen said the heat may have been a factor.
“It was a hot day and there was a lot of heat in the turbine, and it was hotter in there than it was outside,” Fagen said. “Some of the guys thought it may have been 30 degree warmer in there, but that’s just a guess.”
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.
The sheriff’s office, Huxley Fire and Rescue, and Huxley Police Department all responded to the call just after 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
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.
Fagen also did not immediately know the name of the company building the turbine.
Lifeflight was called and arrived at the scene, but Thompson was already pronounced dead, Lennie said.
Lennie also said officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been notified.