In the summer of 1967, Randall G. Champion, a 29-year-old apprentice lineman, was performing maintenance atop a power pole in Jacksonville, FL. What was seemingly routine work turned into horror when Champion brushed a low-voltage line, knocking him unconscious.
Noticing him dangling and unresponsive from the top of the pole, Champion’s partner J.D. Thompson quickly climbed the pole, reached him, and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After some time, Thompson could detect a faint pulse, then unhooked Champion from his harness and carried him down.
Once on the ground, Thompson and another worker performed CPR. By the time paramedics arrived, Champion was moderately revived and eventually made a full recovery.
It is an incident like this that cooperative safety directors like Cherryland’s Jim Carpenter spend their careers trying to avoid. But if the worst does happen, Carpenter is going to make sure Cherryland is ready. “Safety is and will be our top priority,” said Carpenter.
Every summer Cherryland linemen participate in pole top rescue training. Line crews learn how to use their bucket trucks, ropes, and climbing gear to remove incapacitated victims from atop power poles.
With each training scenario, the crew divides up tasks with the goal of neutralizing a crisis situation in as little time as possible. One lineman may be operating the bucket truck. Another may be calling 911. All the while crews must keep in mind that energized wires, extreme heights, and the victim could all be working against them.
“One of the biggest challenges in these type of emergency scenarios is the victims,” explained Carpenter. “If the victim regains consciousness, there is no telling how they will react. We learn how to protect ourselves as much as protecting them.”
The training doesn’t stop once the victim is brought to the ground. All Cherryland linemen are certified in CPR and use this training to brush up on that skill. “In the nearly 80 years Cherryland has been around, we have never had to perform CPR on one of our linemen. And we plan to keep it that way.”
Quick thinking and a lot of luck saved Champion’s life 50 years ago. Today, Cherryland linemen will not depend on luck to save a life. The life will be saved because they have been skillfully trained in lifesaving techniques and protocols.
Left: After calling for an ambulance, local photographer Rocco Morabito snapped a photo of the 1967 incident. The photo titled “The Kiss of Life” won him the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.
Right: Cherryland linemen perform pole top rescue training annually.