7 investigates: Damaged pole at Hallsville's Bobcat Stadium shed - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7 investigates: Damaged pole at Hallsville's Bobcat Stadium sheds light on countrywide issue

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Update: Hallsville School Board met on Monday night and is considering a proposal to replace three remaining stadium light poles after hearing a presentation Monday. Ben Avedikian, director of maintenance, made the recommendation after one of the 100-foot-tall poles feel during a storm on July 1. He says the district's insurance will cover the deductible. The replacement pole has been ordered and will be delivered on August 17. The district will consider replacing the other three poles as a precautionary measure. 

The stadium has reopened, as of July 24.

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A fallen stadium light at Bobcat Stadium in Hallsville is shedding light on a potential danger at stadiums and facilities around the country.

The 100-foot-tall pole weighing about 5,000 pounds collapsed during a storm on July 1, said Ben Avedikian, director of maintenance for Hallsville Independent School District. Winds in the storm reached up to 60 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The 5,000-pound light pole damaged the visitors' concession stand and left an imprint on the surface of the parking lot.

When insurance adjusters arrived about two weeks later, Avedikian said they knew immediately that the pole was manufactured by a now-defunct Fort Worth company called Whitco Supply LP.

“They said, ‘Oh these are Whitco poles.’ And of course I wasn’t familiar with that name at the time, I wasn’t familiar with the Whitco company,” Avedikian said. “Evidently there was a notice sent out a couple of years before I was here at the school that talked about issues with these poles falling all across the country.”

No one was injured, but Hallsville school officials closed off the entire Bobcat Stadium as a safety precaution, and Avedikian, who has a safety background, began doing homework on the issue.  He learned how to recognize a Whitco Supply LP pole by the stamp in its base plate.

The original 2010 Consumer Product Safety Commission recall-to-repair notice said at least 11 steel poles manufactured between 2000 and 2005 by Whitco Supply LP developed fractures around the base, causing the heavy steel poles to collapse. The fractures are not visible to the naked eye. 

Listed in the initial 138-page recall-to-repair are several East Texas high school football stadiums, including those at Arp, Athens, Big Sandy, Hallsville, Mount Pleasant and Overton school districts. 

The KLTV investigates team found that Arp and Athens have removed the Whitco Supply poles during stadium upgrades. The recall to repair notice lists several remedies, including reinforcing the base.

“The poles can fracture or crack and fall over, posing a risk of serious injury or death to patrons and bystanders from being crushed or hit,” the 2010 notice states.

The CPSC notice also advises pole owners that Whitco Supply was dissolved under bankruptcy in 2006, leaving owners responsible for regular inspections of the poles, as well as paying for any damages or repairs. Cost estimates show that replacing four stadium light poles could cost a school district up to $250,000.

Avedikian credits Hallsville ISD administrators for their emphasis on safety. For years, the poles in question have had yearly inspections by a Dallas engineering firm. In 2011, he says they identified and repaired a small fracture in the now-fallen pole. It was repaired and passed all subsequent tests, Avedikian said.

Related story: Hallsville ISD's Bobcat Stadium closed after lighting fixture collapses

“We have them (inspections) annually now, but now obviously since this happened to us we are going to step them up to twice a year,” Avedikian said. “And anytime we have any damage from storms or whatever in the future, we’ll probably go ahead and have these re-inspected just in case.”

The three poles still standing at the Hallsville stadium have been inspected twice this year, once before and after the collapse, and safely passed, he said. 

Since the news of the pole's collapse spread, Avedikian said he has spoken with officials at other school districts. He wants to be sure other school districts are familiar with the issue. He is recommending to Hallsville ISD board members that the district expand its annual safety inspection program to include all poles over 40-feet tall, and recommends other districts and businesses do the same.

“I would seriously look at that, and not just schools. You have your universities, you have big parking lots at the mall and other places like that. I think it would be prudent to check those,” he said.

Find out more about the recall here.

See a list of sites that may have the recalled poles in place.

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