One spotlight that held firm
Following reports in the AmericanStatesman, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of stadium lighting polls that crashed without warning.
The lighting poles were manufactured in Fort Worth by the now-bankrupt Whitco Co. LLP. As first reported in April 2009 by the American-Statesman’s Eric Dexheimer, about a dozen of the stadium lighting poles sold by Whitco developed cracks at the base and fell over, mostly in Texas public school facilities. In Central Texas, Round Rock and Hays County schools experienced lighting pole collapses.
Fortunately, no one was reported injured in any of the incidents. There were some close calls, however.
In Hays County, a 125-foot pole toppled at the district’s Bob Shelton Stadium and landed on a high school gymnasium. There were 60 people in the stadium when the pole fell.
A month later, a Whitco pole fell in Uniontown, Pa. The falling pole crushed bleachers and landed on the field. Had it not been for bad weather, children would have been on the field.
Whitco poles also have fallen in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Dakota. Dexheimer reported in Tuesday’s American-Statesman that forensic reports on the failure of the poles have reached differing conclusions. Some investigators blamed vibration caused by high winds for the toppled poles. Others have blamed design and welding flaws for the failures.
Whatever the reason, the product safety commission took the first necessary step in recalling the poles. “Consumers should immediately stop using recalled products until they are inspected and repaired,” the federal recall notice states.
Determining the cause of the failure would establish responsibility. That no one was hurt was happenstance. The chances that school districts and stadium owners that bought the poles will ever get their money back, however, are highly remote.
Nonetheless, the matter shouldn’t end there. Prosecutors should inquire about potential criminal liability in the matter. While it is irresponsible to suggest criminal conduct at this point, it would be equally irresponsible not to investigate the matter thoroughly.
Because of the company’s bankruptcy, school district taxpayers bear the costs of repairs and replacements to their facilities. Hays County spent nearly $700,000 replacing light towers and repairing damage.
That’s money the district isn’t likely to recover. It is nothing, however, compared to what the costs would have been had the lighting pole injured or killed anyone.
Dexheimer’s reporting called attention to the situation and thereby played a part in ending a reliance on luck to maintain the safety of the youngsters who play in Texas stadiums and the spectators who watch them.
reports in the americanstatesman on stadium lighting poles manufactured by Whitco Co. llP that developed cracks and toppled over have led to a product recall. a large crack in the metal pole near its base anchor is seen on this pole removed from bob shelton stadium in hays County in 2009.