Crane Accidents

Lowell Sweatt


Killed instantly in a crane accident while working on the Mississippi River. My father was a crane operator foreman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and in a separate incident on the same day, just five hours later, at a different site entirely, another crane operator was killed when his crane went into the Mississippi. Both incidents are described in an article written in the “Tower Times”, a publication of the Rock Island District of the Corps, in an article entitled The District’s Darkest Day.

My father and his crew were engaged in an operation on a barge, and on this particular day they were experiencing difficulty anchoring one of the spuds used to secure the barge in place. At some point, my father decided that he would attempt to secure it himself, and while doing so, the crane’s aft end apparently swung around and pinned him between it and the spud, killing him.

As a result of these two accidents, a crane safety position was created, and training, and when the crew stopped each hour, he would set up his typewriter and begin typing his final papers. He did this every day for several weeks, and a local reporter caught wind of it and did a feature article on him in the local newspaper.

That’s the kind of guy he was — he MADE opportunities happen, and he always led by example. Years later, when I was married, in my mid-thirties, and had young children of my own, I followed his example and returned to St. Ambrose University while holding a full-time job, and eventually graduated.

His presence was with me every single day as I walked the campus to my classes, and when things seemed rough, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it all, I remembered that picture of him carrying that typewriter on his back up into the cab of that tower crane, typing his papers 110 feet up in the air, and the level of commitment he gave to everything he did in his life. He inspired me then, and he continues to inspire me now — and so much of the success I have gained.

Category: In Memory of


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