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Woman climbs smokestack at MU power plant

Thursday, July 10, 2008 | 12:54 p.m. CDT; updated 11:36 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A 23-year-old woman climbed a 301.5-foot smokestack at the MU power plant early Thursday morning and then descended several hours later. Police have not yet released her name.

COLUMBIA — A 23-year-old woman climbed a 301.5-foot smokestack at the MU power plant early Thursday morning and then descended several hours later.

At 3:33 a.m., an alarm at the base of a ladder on the smokestack alerted a power plant operator on duty, said Phil Shocklee, associate director of Campus Facilities. The operator then went to investigate the cause of the alarm and saw the woman climbing the stack before calling MU police.

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Campus police responded to the call at 3:39 a.m., Capt. Brian Weimer said, and arrived at the scene with the Columbia Fire Department, where they observed the woman climbing the smokestack. When she stopped climbing, the woman went to sleep for several hours while police and Fire Department personnel organized a technical rescue team, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department

When she woke up, the woman began to descend the stack by herself. She stopped on the second landing for about 15 minutes and then continued toward the ground, Sapp said. She made it near the bottom at 7:45 a.m. and was assisted the rest of the way — about 30 feet — by a firefighter, according to a Fire Department news release.

“She basically came down on her own power,” Sapp said.

The woman appeared to have no injuries but was sent to Boone Hospital where she refused any type of medical assistance, Weimer said.

She was later transported to MUPD where an application for a 96-hour Imminent Harm Admission form was completed, Weimer said. MUPD then transferred custody of her to Mid-Missouri Mental Health.

This Imminent Harm Admission form applies to individuals who may be harmful to themselves or someone else, may be a suicide risk or may be too sick to care for themselves, said Lois Thomas of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The power plant is surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link security fence with prongs at the top, Shocklee said.

“There are a number of safety precautions to try to prevent such an incident,” he said.

It is even more of a mystery how she climbed the ladder up the stack, Shocklee said, because it hovers 20 feet in the air as an added security measure. Shocklee said it is possible that she used the electric conduit that runs up the smokestack as a way to reach the ladder.

No charges will be brought against the woman until police can ask her more questions about why she climbed the smokestack, Weimer said.


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