Officials Investigate Oregon Wind Turbine Collapse

One killed, one injured when wind tower fell Saturday; Siemens suspended inspection and maintenance on its turbines worldwide Monday.

WASCO, Ore. (AP) — Investigators from Siemens Power Generation and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division started examining the wreckage from the wind turbine tower that collapsed in Eastern Oregon.

OSHA spokesman Kevin Weeks said the regulatory agency will look for possible flaws in the tower's engineering and try to determine whether safety and health rules were violated. He told The Oregonian that the state investigation could take four months.

''We will try to re-create those final moments before the collapse,'' Weeks said.

The tower fell Saturday as two workers were performing a scheduled inspection. Wasco County Sheriff Brad Lohrey said winds at the time were about 25 mph.

Chadd Mitchell, 35, of Goldendale, Wash., a Siemens employee, was killed when he was working at the top of the tower and it fell. Mitchell, a father of three, had been working on the wind project since July 10.

Bill Trossen, of Minnesota, a contract worker who was midway up the inside of the tower, was hospitalized for a broken thumb.

Siemens, a German company, suspended inspection and maintenance work on its turbines worldwide Monday. ''We just wanted to take some precautionary measures,'' said Melanie Forbrick, a spokeswoman based at the company's North American headquarters in Orlando, Fla.

She said the turbine blades were manufactured in Denmark and the towers in the United States.

Susan Williams Sloan, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said that to the group's knowledge Mitchell is the first U.S. wind-farm worker to die in the collapse of a turbine, though not the first to die on the job.

''With roughly 20,000 turbines now in the ground, this is an anomaly,'' she said in a statement.

Utility-scale wind turbines are built to international engineering standards that include ratings for withstanding levels of hurricane-strength winds, she said.

The Klondike III wind project, in the wheat fields of Sherman County, is expected to generate 221 megawatts of electricity when it's completed in late 2007.

Turbines stand about 400 feet tall from ground to uppermost blade tip. More than 1,100 turbines are churning out electricity along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Washington.

Projects in various stages of construction could add almost 500 more by next year.

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