VIDEO: KMVI AM 550 Tower Collapse

March 20, 2011, 5:00 PM HST · Updated March 20, 5:31 PM
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By Wendy Osher

KMVI AM 550 Tower Collapse, photo by Wendy Osher.

The longstanding KMVI AM 550 radio tower in Central Maui was brought down today in a controlled collapse. The 11,000 pound (5-and-a-half-ton) structure stood 450 feet tall and its flashing red lights served as a beacon and landmark for many years to passing pilots, motorists, and residents alike.

Pacific Radio Group Engineer and T&T Towers Owner, Earl Tolley estimated that the tower was about 20 years old and was the third tower that has served at the site. The fourth and newest tower will be 180 feet, two and a half times smaller than the current one and slightly wider at 3 feet. Since it will stand below 200 feet, the future tower will not be required to utilize lights.

The same four man crew that collapsed the tower will be on site to bring the new steel tower in its place by tomorrow afternoon.

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“All towers are different and react differently,” said Rick Jones, President of Sky Jack Communications and Foreman of the Tower Collapse. He said the job was probably the most difficult of his career because of the existing corrosion and the proximity of the tower to businesses in the area, and the main Kaahumanu Avenue.

The Sky Jack crew changed out bolts and strengthened the tower prior to it’s collapse. “We first had to strengthen the tower because of its age,” said Jones. “Being that we are in the middle of the ocean, it corrodes much faster,” said Jones.

When the tower was brought down, it was clear to see that the rust and corrosive impacts of the environment had affected the structure most at it’s highest points. The new tower, Jones said, would use the same steel construction, but would sustain less corrosion because of its shorter height.

The collapse involved the removal of several guy wires, which effectively made it, “like a standing noodle” that assured the crew that it would break at designated points.

The tower fell withing the boundary of the Maui News upper parking lot and collapsed downhill toward the upper employee parking lot of the old Kaiser Clinic in Wailuku.

“It’s like a car or anything else out here. They are eventually going to rust out,” said Jones. “It gets to the point where you can’t take it down by conventional methods,” he said. Options that are used for various types of tower collapses include helcopter removal, controlled explosive deconstruction, and controlled collapse.

Jones, who has been working in Hawaii since 1998, was involved with the conventional deconstruction of the KGMB tower in Honolulu recently.

“It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude,” said Jones. The crew completed all tower climbing prior to the collapse, with the entire crew on the ground when the tower was dropped at 7:30 a.m.

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