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Jones' family still has questions

October 03, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

The family of the City Light worker who died on the job March 6 said they disagree with City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's decision not to discipline the crew supervisor.

The family of Ronald L. "Beaner" Jones Jr. gathered at Jones' 120 Summer St. home on Thursday evening to talk about Zimmerman's decision and the accident. They said it's been almost seven months and they still have several unanswered questions.

Jones, 34, died after he was thrown from a cherry picker as he and four other City Light crew members worked to remove the last of five transformers from utility poles at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds.

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A Maryland Occupational Safety & Health program report on the accident states Jones was not wearing his safety belt, but family members question that.

Family members said Jones could have been catapulted out of his safety belt as well as the cherry picker.

Another possibility is he removed the belt just before the accident because he walked to the edge of the bucket to where his tools had fallen after the bucket jolted the first of two times, said family members who talked to Jones' fellow crew members after the accident.

Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation spokesman Marco Merrick said Friday the MOSH investigator had completed his report on the accident, which states Jones was not wearing the safety belt.

Zimmerman said no one actually knows whether Jones was wearing his safety belt because he was standing in a four-foot-deep bucket about 30 feet in the air, where it would be difficult to see the belt that wraps around the waist.

The collar of the materials handler Beaner Jones was using to remove the transformer broke off because there was too much weight on the handler since the transformer was still bolted to the pole, said City Light Manager Terry Weaver.

When the collar broke, Jones' tools fell and a second later the steel pins inside the collar sheared off, causing the bucket to bounce and throw Jones out, Weaver said.

Jones fell about 30 feet, striking his head on the back of the city's bucket truck.

The collar was too light for the job, said Jones' brother Randy Jones, who is a welder.

Weaver said the materials handler is capable of handling 2,000 pounds and the transformer weighed 1,460 pounds. But, there was additional weight on the handler because two bolts remained connecting the transformer to the pole, which the crew did not know, he said.

The truck should have automatically shut down when it reached its maximum weight capacity, said Randy Jones and Ronald L. Jones Sr., Beaner's father.

Weaver said he checked with the truck distributor and no such overload protection exists.

Both the family and city officials said they have been unable to get a copy of a report on the truck from its manufacturer Teco Inc.

Officials from Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Teco Inc. could not be reached for comment.

The truck was repaired, tested and placed back in service on July 21, Weaver said.

There are other factors to consider as well, the family said.

A lineman should have climbed the pole to ensure no bolts were left, said Ronald L. Jones Sr.

Weaver said there's no policy stating a lineman must climb the pole first. Usually there are no bolts on the bottom of the transformer, which is where the two remaining ones were, he said.

Then there's the weather.

Randy Jones said his brother, an apprentice lineman, shouldn't have been up in the cherry picker that day during severe winds.

The family said they think the supervisor, William Renner, should be reprimanded. They said they won't ask for him to be fired.

Renner had no comment.

Zimmerman said Tuesday he didn't feel discipline was warranted.

Making sure employees wear the safety belt is a shared responsibility of employees and supervisors, Zimmerman had said. Jones had been trained to wear the belt two weeks before the accident and it was available for him to use, he said.

The family would not say whether it had hired an attorney or private investigator.

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