West Virginia's history is dotted with massive industrial disasters, from the Hawks Nest Tunnel to numerous mine explosions. So how is is that I never heard about Willow Island (h/t to Mountain Laurel @ Appalachian Greens)?
Willow Island is the site of a power plant in Pleasants County (on the Ohio River north of Parkersburg). Thirty years ago yesterday, it was the site of the worst construction disaster in American history:
At about 10 a.m. on April 27, 1978, workers began raising the day's second bucket of concrete up 166 feet to Lift 29. Each day, they poured another 5-foot lift to build the second of two 430-foot cooling towers for the new Pleasants Power Station at Willow Island.The Charleston Gazette is doing a series about the disaster, its aftermath, and what's changed in intervening decades.
But on that Thursday morning, 30 years ago today, something went terribly wrong.
The cable hoisting that bucket of concrete went slack. The crane that was pulling it up fell toward the inside of the tower. Scaffolding followed. The previous day's concrete, Lift 28, started to collapse.
Concrete began to unwrap off the top of the tower. First it peeled counter-clockwise, and then in both directions. A mess of concrete, wooden forms and metal scaffolding crumbled to the ground.
Fifty-one construction workers were on the scaffold at the time. They all plunged to their deaths.
Industrial disasters are a fact of life. Thankfully, they're much rarer today than even thirty years ago. Why? Because of those evil big-government types that pushed through regulations improving workplace safety conditions.
Remember that next time some politician is ranting about big government and the socialistic evils of OSHA or some such. Remember that, back when we left such things to the the better angels of industrialists' natures, people died. By the dozens. People who just went to work to do a job and never came home again.
Those weren't the good ole' days and there is no need to return to them.
UPDATE: Situations like this always put me in mind of, perhaps, the last great Genesis tune: