Man topples into tank

June 03, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A worker who fell 18 feet to the bottom of an empty steel tank in Mercersburg Wednesday was flown by helicopter to Hershey Medical Center, where his condition was listed as fair by hospital officials.

It took rescuers more than 45 minutes to get Morgan Swope, 27, of Columbia, Pa., out of the tank.

Firefighters had to rig a crane from an aerial ladder truck. After several tries, they got a stretcher to the bottom of the tank, where Swope was lying on its concrete floor.

"We had training in this kind of rescue last Sunday," said Nick Barbuzanes, chief of the Mercersburg Montgomery Peters Warren Volunteer Fire Department. "It paid off."

Barbuzanes credited firefighter Jeff Main, whose steady hands on the levers of the aerial ladder were instrumental in the rescue.

Swope complained of a broken arm and pains in his side, officials said.

He was working for the Howard Robson construction company of Landisville, Pa. The company was hired by the Borough of Mercersburg to convert what were once holding tanks for the former Lowengart Tannery's water processing system into the borough's new sewage treatment plant, which will be built on the site, according to Borough Manager James Leventry.


Part of the tannery, which closed in the early 1990s, is now home to Just Woods Inc., a custom woodworking company. The borough bought the tanks and a large metal building next to them that will serve as the operations building for the new sewage system, Leventry said.

Swope's plunge into the tank was witnessed by several Just Woods workers who were sitting outside on their lunch break. One of them, truck driver Kevin Mowen, ran up the steps to the top of the tank, then down a ladder inside to stay with Swope until help came, officials said.

Swope's was the second rescue of its kind in Franklin County this week.

Monday morning, a woman was knocked 12 feet into a pit of garbage in Washington Township by a truck being backed up to the pit's edge by her husband.

Leah Swisher, 76, was pushed over the edge of a garbage pit at the township's transfer station on Buchanan Trail East while helping her husband, Charles E. Swisher, 77, dump the family garbage.

The couple lives at 11702 Koons Road, Waynesboro.

According to Washington Township Police, the woman was standing behind a truck giving directions to her husband as he was backing it up to the pit. The rear of the truck struck her and pushed her in, police said.

She suffered internal injuries, police said. Officials at Waynesboro Hospital said her condition Wednesday was critical, but stable.

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