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Colleagues Mourn Ernie Jones After Tower Death

An elevator accident took his life

Ernie Jones, PE, in an image from the CEI website.

This story contains updated information.

Broadcast industry veterans reacted with dismay to news that Ernie Jones died in a tower elevator accident on an Oklahoma broadcast tower late Wednesday.

Jones, 65, was a founder of the structural firm Consolidated Engineering Inc. in Lynnville, Ind., which does engineering analyses and tower renovations in broadcast and telecom. He is survived by his wife Kathy and four children.

His business partner and longtime friend David Davies of CEI told Radio World that Jones, died when the tower service elevator started back down while Jones was connected via lanyard to a member of the tower but was still in the cab. Jones was caught and pulled up to the elevator cab ceiling and asphyxiated before the elevator stopped from the tension. Davies said climbers hurried up the structure in hopes of rescue but to no avail. Davies said OSHA is investigating the accident.

The tower serves Hearst station KOCO(TV) in Oklahoma City. A KOCO executive did not return a call to RW.

CEI clients have included ERI, CBS, Clear Channel, American Tower and numerous others. Its website said the company has coordinated fabrication of more than 1,000 towers.

Related: TIA Peers to Dedicate TIA-322 to Ernie Jones

People responded across the industry as the word spread via social media and second-hand email reports.
“Ernie was a giant figure in the tower structural analysis community, one of the leaders in tower structure standards-setting, and a first class fellow,” one wrote. Fellow engineer Tom Osenkowsky told Radio World, “This is a tragic loss not only to his family but to the tower industry. He was one of the great ones.” He said Jones was to write three chapters in the next edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook.

An email from SBE Chapter 43 stated, “Ernie Jones was widely known in the broadcast industry, having designed and overseen fabrication of over 3,000 towers from 240 to 2,000 feet in height.” SBE Chapter 16 Chairman Marty Hadfield forwarded the note, adding, “Ernie was one of those special individuals, a PE that climbs towers, who carried the ERI structural design, construction and installation for antenna systems and towers right to the top of the stick. He always seemed to be as comfortable roping a cow on the ranch, as he was in a design meeting. Ernie will be very missed by his co-workers and to many in our industry.” Jones is associated by many people with antenna company ERI and was a former employee; ERI referred questions about the accident to CEI, saying Jones was not a current employee or retained on an ERI project.

Dave Davies and Ernie Jones in a CEI photo
Jones, who held Professional Engineer certification, was no stranger to towers or to their safety considerations. According to the CEI website, he was active in standards work for steel antenna towers and support structures. For 29 years he had been a participating member of the TR14.7 Committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association.

According to his bio, he was responsible for developing the ANSI/TIA-1019, 2004 Gin Pole Standard and was a co-chair of a technical section responsible for creating a full construction standard on the installation, alteration and maintenance of antenna supporting structures and antennas.

Ernie Jones is survived by his wife Kathy Jones; daughters Karalyn, 26; Megan, 25; and Angel, 7, and his son Andy Jones (27). He was preceded in death by his parents Raymond and June Jones; his sister, Louis Jones; his first wife, Krista Jones; and his daughter Caroline Jones.