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Copper Thieves Destroy KITX’s Radio Tower

Severed guy cables caused the Oklahoma station's tower to collapse

Read an update to this story here.

Copper thieves temporarily robbed the community of Hugo, Okla., of a radio voice after having vandalized a local station’s broadcast tower in freezing conditions overnight.

Payne Media Group said the thieves caused catastrophic damage to the KITX(FM) tower by cutting tower guy cables. The tower subsequently collapsed causing a half-million dollars in damage.

According to Will Payne, president of Payne Media Group, thieves broke into the station’s transmitter site on Monday evening and cut several of the tower guy wires, causing the top half of the station’s 500-foot broadcast tower to come down.

“Thieves cut top set of guyed wires causing the tower to fall to the north of the building,” Payne told Radio World. “Happened overnight in 10 degree or less weather.”

The thieves then cut the transmission line off of the tower section that toppled and hauled the 3-inch copper pieces off the property, he said. A portion of the station’s tower, the station’s main antenna and the transmission line were damaged beyond repair. 

“This was big boy stuff. It wasn’t kids out stealing things, which we have had issues with before,” said Payne. “It was a very dangerous thing to do. They made off with maybe just over 100 feet of coax. It’s unbelievable that this happened.”

The station is back on air at reduced power broadcasting from a 140-foot tower at its studios using an auxiliary antenna. The tower site is approximately 15 miles from the studio and sits about a half mile from the Red River in Choctaw County.

Payne said the tower, which was built in 2017, was insured. KITX serves southeastern Oklahoma and northeast Texas.

“The tower can be replaced and will be, but the thieves really hurt the community by doing this,” he said. “There has been bad weather in Oklahoma this week and we haven’t been able to serve our listeners like we would have. We really take pride in serving the local community.”

Payne, who has a seat on the NAB Radio Board, can’t give an estimate on how long it will take to rebuild, but does worry about finding materials. 

“I haven’t had time to think much about what has to go into it. The three-inch coax might be the hardest to find. But there is a lot of work that will have to go into the rebuild,” he said.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Office at 580-326-5600 or 580-326-2130.

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