Three men working on a television tower in far western Iowa died today after falling off the tower. The accident in eastern Pottawattamie claimed the lives of a 57-year-old, a 27-year-old and a 19-year-old.

The tower broadcasts Iowa Public Television’s signal and Bill Hayes, IPTV’s chief engineer, says the men were working on the tower’s strobe lights which alert passing planes to the tower’s position. The men were replacing the flash tubes, which are essentially the bulbs. “It was not really structural work,” Hayes says. “It just was routine maintenance-type work.”

The men were not employees of Iowa Public Television but were employees of Deter’s Tower Service, a West Des Moines company that IPTV routinely hires to maintain the 17 towers it has around the state. Hayes says Iowa Public Television has been doing business with the company for 20 years.

“From our standpoint, the people (who) died in this terrible accident — these are friends and colleagues,” Hayes says. “Our hearts and prayers go out to their families because it’s a terrible, tremendous loss.”

The tower the men were working on broadcasts Iowa Public Television’s signal to the southwestern corner of Iowa and a bit of southeastern Nebraska, according to Hayes. The tower is located just east of Oakland in Pottawattamie County.

(KJAN news director Ric Hanson was at the scene of the accident and contributed to this report.)