Overcoming Obstacles: Climber Turns Tragedy into Triumph


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On September 23, 2015, John Richardson was working for Surf Air Wireless, and was severely injured.  John had been working on a TV tower with his brother Joel.  They had been replacing a section of the tower.  John climbed up the tower and hooked onto the tower with his PPE.  Meanwhile, Joel was on the ground taking a phone call with another employee.  Joel then stated he heard a humming or buzzing noise and glanced over his shoulder to witness the final moment of John being electrocuted.  Joel said it only lasted a moment.  John then fell back away from the electrical wires, at which point Joel started yelling which drew the customer from his home.  Joel proceeded to call 911 and the customer scrambled up the tower to try to lift John’s head.  After the call, Joel also climbed the tower to assist the customer in helping John.  

During this time, John was never conscious, but was moving his arms, requiring Joel to essentially pin him to the tower to keep anyone from coming in contact with the power lines again.  The rescue personnel arrived, but because they are not normally trained in tower rescues, the entire process of getting John down took approximately 30-45 minutes.  If his brother hadn’t been on site, it is unlikely John would have survived.  John’s leg was amputated below the knee due to injuries from the accident.

But tragedy and uncertainty were soon replaced by calmness and a determination.  Bridgette Hester, founder of the Hubble Foundation, a group dedicated to helping tower climbers and their families after death or injury on the job, witnessed the transformation. “Never once in a phone conversation or written correspondence with John or his wife Elaina have I detected even a hint of defeat or self pity,” she said.  “I think the Richardson’s have demonstrated beautifully that being knocked down does not mean that you stay down.”

Turns out John Richardson is a tough man to keep down.  John and Elaina had been out one afternoon and, by coincidence, met a person that works for The Amputee Walking School.  They hit it off, and John visited the gym and was introduced to a new activity for his rehabilitation: running. John says he is currently training at a local gym and at the house, and he just was approved for his running blade, which they pick up September 16.  In her words, “The 23rd of this month marks one-year from the accident, which is crazy.”

“John and Elaina have never asked for anything,” Hester said, “yet they have given so much back to the people who know them. With people like John and Elaina, we received more than we ever were able to give,” she said.

“It’s amazing to me that God has taken such good care of us,” Elaina said.

You can keep up with John and Elaina on their personal blog

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