Meet the Tower King
December 1, 2008
As Shane Best helped replace an 11,000-pound digital broadcast antenna atop a 2,000-foot tower in Sioux Falls, S.D., he seemed surprisingly relaxed. After all, one false move or a faulty harness could result in a fatal 10-second plummet toward Earth.
“There’s no room for error up here,” says Best, casually clinging to one of the tallest manmade structures with nearly 54 pounds of rigging equipment.
While these and other vertigo-inducing scenes played throughout the season finale of the National Geographic Channel’s World’s Toughest Fixes, Best’s laid-back on screen presence was overshadowed by how happy he was to be home sharing his 15 minutes of fame with friends and family last week.
On Wednesday night at 7 p.m., Best and his family gathered on the couch to watch
the latest episode of World’s Toughest Fixes, which featured a nine-day antenna replacement project at the hands of Tower King II, the company Best works for.
With vacation time away from an ongoing tower repair in Scranton, Penn., Best was able to make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday and his television debut.
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Though he was given an opportunity to watch the episode a week earlier, Best wanted his first viewing to be with his family.
“It’s a little different than I anticipated,” said Best during the first commercial break.
“My voice sounds so much different than I thought.”
While Best had shown friends and family pictures of his work, they said Wednesday night’s show was the first time they had seen the full scope of his dangerous job.
“That’s a long way up,” said Best’s brother-in-law Brian Bertsch. “For all those times you’ve talked about it, to now see it is crazy.”
Even Best’s wife, Amanda, who had been to the top of a broadcast tower in 60 mile per hour winds, was amazed by the footage.
“I’ve never seen it to that extent before,” said Amanda. “It really gives me a better understanding of why he loves the job so much.”
Though Best and the Tower King II crew made their job look easy, they never let viewers forget how dangerous working at 2,000 feet really is.
According to the show’s host, Sean Riley, tower repair claims 20 to 50 lives a year.
With a limited amount of people employed in broadcast tower repair in the United States, it is statistically the most dangerous job in America.
As demonstrated on the show, one of the most common accidents on the job site is a falling tool.
From 2,000-feet, a falling wrench can reach fatal speeds in excess of 110 miles per hour, hitting the ground with cratering effects.
All dangers aside, Best’s 12 years of tower repair have given him the confidence and poise needed to face dizzying heights.
While fixing towers has earned him a recent spot on television, Best only works for Tower King II repair crew during the summer months.
When he returns from this year’s last job in Raleigh, N.C., Best will be going into his 10th year as a professional ski patroller, a job he does for the love of skiing, not the money.
“I make more in a week at this than in a month of ski patrol,” said Best.
Depending on the reception of the World’s Toughest Fixes episode, Best said National Geographic producers are considering a feature series on Tower King II.
“Hopefully we can give those pansies on Deadliest Catch a run for their money,” he said.