Turbine Inferno

A 19 and 21 year old moments away from death embrace atop a turbine engulfed in flames. One man jumped to escape the fire, the other burned alive in an attempt to reach the staircase.

In the afternoon of October 29, 2013 at the Deltawinds Piet de Wit Wind Farm in Ooltgensplaat, Holland, a fire broke out inside the engine room of a 220 foot (67 meter) high wind turbine. A crew of four were performing regular maintenance on the 1.75 megawatt Vestas V-66 at the time. Two of the workers, who were older and more experienced, managed to escape by jumping through the flames, reaching the staircase just before it became entirely engulfed. Unfortunately due to fear, lack of experience, or the false hope that someone would rescue them, a 19 and a 21-year-old worker perished that day. According to The Netherlands Times, “because of the height, the fire department initially had trouble extinguishing the fire in the engine room.” The fire, believed to have been caused by a short fuse, was not extinguished until that evening when specialty firefighters equipt to handle such a situation arrived. Turbines are built with what is known as a ‘Constant Rate Descender’ which is essentially a cord workers can attach themselves to in the event of an emergency and use to repel down the turbine. It slows the descent to 6.5 feet per second (2 meters/second) which is slower than one would land after hopping up on one foot. Unfortunately, the repelling equipment was located on the opposite side of the turbine and the two young men were blocked from it by the flames. Eventually, one of the remaining engineers chose to jump from the turbine rather than wait to burn to death. His body was immediately discovered in the field beneath the machine. The second chose to remain and seemingly made a final attempt to escape by walking through flames to reach the staircase. His charred body was discovered inside the turbine by firefighters later that evening. Although their names are unknown, their outlined image has been burned into the minds of those who have viewed it.

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