UM Worker Falls Through Skylight onto Boiler - News, Sports and Weather

UM Worker Falls Through Skylight onto Boiler

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A longtime University of Montana employee is in serious condition at St. Patrick Hospital, after falling through a skylight and landing on a boiler inside the heating plant on campus.

UM officials said Mike Burke, 61, was checking new equipment on the roof this morning before plummeting 15-20 feet through the glass window.

The Missoula Fire Department technical rescue team had Burke safely in an ambulance about an hour after they responded.

UM officials said this was the first time a serious accident has ever happened at the heating plant on campus.

UM Chief Communications Officer, Peggy Kuhr, said Mike Burke is the Chief Engineer and Supervisor at UM's heating plant.

"And he has worked in this capacity for decades," she said.

Kuhr said Burke was checking a flue gas damper on the roof, before he fell through the glass skylight.

"And the plant employees are often up on the roof doing work, so it wasn't unusual for him to be up there," Kuhr added.

"The ironic thing is our rescue team -- our technical rescue team -- has practiced pretty much this exact scenario, in this exact building, almost in this exact location," said Missoula Fire Department Training Officer, Matt Kerns.

Kerns said his 22-person team hoisted Burke -- who was conscious -- into a basket and used rope pulleys to lower him to the ground vertically.

"He was about 35-40 feet in the air, there's lots of piping, it's the facilities plant, so there's steam chases and pipes going everywhere," Burke said.

But, Kerns said the crew's prior exercise at the plant paid off.

"It really expedited the whole process and I think showed the true value of the amount of training we put in," he said.

Kuhr said UM Environmental Health and Risk Management has begun an investigation into the incident.

So far, officials have already determined Burke was not required to where fall protection gear, because he was on a flat surface, and six feet away from the edge of the building.

UM officials said they're only required to report an accident to the U.S. Department of Labor, if it results in death, or if three or more people are injured.

At last check, Burke was still at St. Patrick Hospital in serious condition.

We'll keep you updated on the status of UM's investigation into this incident, and on Burke's health.

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