Man rescued from atop ham radio antenna

With tree blocking ladder truck access, fire department executes rope and harness retrieval.

Edgartown firefighters work to lift a man off a backyard radio antenna after he became stuck atop it. — Rich Saltzberg

An 80-year-old Edgartown man was rescued Monday morning by the Edgartown Fire Department from a ham radio tower in his yard.

William Welch, an electrician and avid amateur radio operator, got his sneaker caught atop a 20-foot-tall backyard antenna after he scaled the structure to secure it ahead of the impending nor’easter, his wife Betty told The Times.

Firefighters were dispatched at around 10:45 am to 7 Welch’s Way for a report of a man trapped on a tower.

Among the first of his department on scene, Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer climbed the tower — an antenna — to assist Welch, who held on just below the apex.

Edgartown’s ladder truck arrived shortly after Schaeffer, but firefighters couldn’t position the ladder beneath Welch because a pitch pine was in the way. Instead, the ladder was telescoped parallel to Welch and Chief Schaeffer.

Firefighters moved back and forth over the ladder and put a helmet on Welch and fitted him with a harness. The harness was fastened to the tower, so Welch couldn’t fall. Chief Schaeffer then climbed down, collected gear, and was subsequently hoisted aloft by the ladder on a rope. After being positioned adjacent to Welch, Chief Schaeffer linked a harness he wore to Welch’s with carabiners. Firefighters then hoisted the two over the pitch pine and safely to the ground, where a group of firefighters and EMTs awaited.

Welch was taken into an Oak Bluffs ambulance for observation and released, his wife said. His pride is a little bruised, his wife said, but nothing else.

“He’s doing wonderful. He just had a big lunch,” she said midday Monday.

The mishap was a fluke, she said. Welch has climbed all his life. He turned 80 in October, but feels 20 years younger, she said.


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