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FERRYBRIDGE
COOLING TOWER COLLAPSE

ADDED 10 JANUARY 2006

I was interested to read the correspondence on the Ferrybridge Cooling Towers Collapse in the January issue of the Digest magazine.

At the time, I was Publicity Manager at Pollard Bearings in Ferrybridge and my department was situated in Riversdale House (subsequently demolished and replaced by the Computer building). On the late morning of 1st November 1965 - a very bright but extremely windy day - I was returning to Riversdale from the main office looking directly at the colling towers and noticed what I thought was a peculiar shadow on one of the towers. I quickly realised that it wasn't a shadow but the jagged edge of what remained of the first tower to fall.

Both my late father, Claude Battye, and my late elder brother, Ted Battye, worked on the cooling towers site and I was naturally alarmed as to their safety. I immediately went to the site in my car, but was stopped by security people from entering.  On explaining my concern for my father and brother, I was told that everyone had been accounted for and had been sent home. I then went directly to my father's house and received his account of events.

He was the Wages Officer for the contractors (Kiers I believe), and was in his office, aware of the extremely high wind with loose items being blown around and a loud noise as the wind swirled between the towers.  Suddenly his door was flung open and one of the workers shouted to him, 'Get out Claude, the towers are coming down'. (At that time I think only the first tower had collapsed, the others fell later in the day) He ran out to where the rest of the site workers were gathered, located my brother and after a head count went home.

When the first tower fell, my brother, Ted, a steel fixer was working on another part of the site.  The reason there were no fatalities or serious injuries he explained, was that there were no workers either on or inside the tower at the time and when it fell it imploded, with all the massive chunks of concrete, etc. falling inside the tower.

As a postscript to the events of that memorable day, a few days later, in much calmer weather, again walking to my office and looking at the remaining complete towers, I noticed what looked like small objects on the top of one of them.  Then one of the 'objects' moved and bent down , and I realised that they were 'steeplejacks' walking on the rim of the tower inspecting it for damage.  I marvelled at how anyone could have the nerve to do such a job at such a height!

Robert Battye
10 January 2006


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