Just Another Day for a Lineman – by Julie Jones

VEC linemen frequently work with ropes. Every day they use rope to climb power poles. They create rope rigging to move lines from the ground to where they are working. Ropes are integral to their training. Recently the Benton service crew put their knowledge of rigging rope to another use. One morning in January, they were working in a remote area of Polk County well-known for rafting and lack of cell service. Their job that morning was to assist, as needed, a crew of Right of Way (ROW) contractors who were cutting a few ‘danger trees.’

As the ROW workers were felling a tree, one contract worker misjudged his step and fell. Normally that would have been embarrassing, but not a crisis. Because they were working on the side of a mountain with an incline of 75 degrees, misjudging his step resulted in a fall and tumble about 15 feet down the side of the mountain. While the contract crew stabilized the downed tree, VEC serviceman went to aid the unconscious man. Tony Wilson, serviceman, climbed down the mountain, scaled the steep embankment at the bottom of the mountain and was able to locate a home with a telephone landline. He called emergency services and the Benton Service Area working sub-foreman Aaron Hood to report the accident.

Due to the terrain, rescue vehicles could not make it up the mountain where the injured man lay. Realizing he would need to be carried the rest of the way down that side of the mountain as well as lowered down a 30 foot embankment (at a 90 degree angle to the road), VEC servicemen grabbed their gear and rigged a series of stable holds that could be used to get down the mountain. An ambulance arrived and one of the EMT’s climbed the embankment using the rope holds to reach the unconscious contract worker.

After evaluating the man and determining he could be moved, the EMT instructed the VEC crew how to stabilize the injured man on a backboard. Once they had secured him for the trip down the mountain, VEC servicemen Tony Wilson, Scott Hawkins, Ryan Maynor and Scottie Peels carried the injured man to the mountain edge to lower him to the road. Using a rope rig they lowered him down the embankment. When they were about half-way down, Benton fire and rescue arrived and provided a basket to hold the injured man for the rest of the trip to the road.

After the injured man was placed in the ambulance, the VEC crew gathered their equipment and went back to the office. When asked about the extraordinary actions of his crew, foreman Scottie Peels stated, “It’s just another day for a lineman, we do what we are trained to do and help where we can.” Thanks to the quick action of the VEC servicemen, after being treated at the hospital, the contract worker was able to return to work within a week.

Aaron Hood, Working Sub-Forman Benton Service Area, stands beside the embankment to give a height perspective.
The Hiwassee River and surrounding mountains are one of the many beautiful but difficult terrains VEC servicemen face on a weekly basis.
Benton Service Area servicemen from left to right; Tony Wilson, Scottie Peels, Scott Hawkins, and Ryan Maynor.
Mountains, curvy roads and power distribution in the Benton area.