Monday February 18th, 2019 4:28PM

Man rescued after climbing tower on Sawnee Mountain

By Alyson Shields Reporter

A man was rescued Wednesday morning after he climbed a 150 foot tall radio tower on Sawnee Mountain in Forsyth County Tuesday. 

Forsyth Fire Services Division Chief Jason Shivers said law enforcement and fire services were alerted by an area resident just after 8 p.m. that a white male in his 20's was attempting to climb up the tower. The resident had interacted with the man shortly before the incident began.

Shivers said negotiators used a bullhorn to communicate with the man, who had climbed on to an antenna atop the tower.

"Right about 3:30 this (Wednesday) morning we finally were successful in getting him talked down off of the tower on Sawnee Mountain," said Shivers. "We made several rescue attempts earlier in the morning, late in the evening, after he began to indicate he was willing to cooperate and did want to come off the tower. It was critical we did that first. We did not want to send our personnel up and put them in danger if there was any indication he was not going to cooperate."

Shivers said they then began putting climbers in place to go up and help the man. Forsyth County Fire high angle rescue technicians began to follow their plan to get the man down when the weather took a turn for the worse, Shivers said. 

The man wasn't able to put himself in an accessible location for personnel as the weather got worse, Shivers said his troops had to retreat and the man stayed where he was until the weather let up. Then, Shivers said the man told crisis negotiators he was going to try and make his way down.

"We put climbers, again, in place to coach him to us and start working with him and from that point forward he continued to make progress every few minutes, working his way to the frame and then down that framework. Then, over the course of the next 30 to 45 minutes he worked his way to the ground. At about 3:30 or a little bit after 3:30 he made his way to the ground," said Shivers.

As to why the man climbed the tower, Shiver said they weren't sure. 

"To even access the tower, he had to scale a fairly high fence that was covered in barbed wire, so that couldn't have been a comfortable thing for him to do. Then to climb the tower itself is of course extremely dangerous. They're not meant to be climbed by people who are not trained and have extensive background in those operations," said Shivers. "Obviously the tower was active, it was a communications tower for various radio and telecommunications, so it obviously has a tremendous amount of electricity that's always coursing through that system and at the base of it. It's fortunate he did survive and didn't touch the wrong thing at the wrong time, but even more so fortunate he didn't slip and fall from the top, or one of the antennas break."

The family had been involved in rescue efforts as well and were reunited with the man briefly after the rescue before he was transported to "a facility that can help care for him and get him some of the assistance he needs," Shivers said.

About 20 fire personnel and 20 law enforcement personnel from Forsyth County were on the scene. Hall County Fire crews also responded as mutual aid but did not need to respond. 

WDUN's Scott Kimbler contributed to this report.

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