Blowing Your Stack: Ohio Demolition Goes Bad As Children Run To Escape Falling Power Lines

The decision to use explosives to take down the 275 foot smokestack of Edison’s Mad River Power Plant in Ohio seemed like the perfect event for children until . . .

I am a bit surprised that children were invited to stand under power lines when that was clearly the primary risk associated with this demolition.

There are no reports of injuries, but such an event would be rife with potential tort liability.

Jonathan Turley

18 thoughts on “Blowing Your Stack: Ohio Demolition Goes Bad As Children Run To Escape Falling Power Lines”

  1. Gyges,

    I’ll have to say you have a point about the trampolines. Although without gravity (or severely lower gravity), they would put NASA out of business. Of course, you’d have a huge number of children cluttering the satellite lanes and gathering at Lagrange points, but the advance of science always comes with attached costs.

  2. I remember one field trip when I was in elementary school in Columbus Ohio to a trash burning plant- one of us asked the guy in the control room why the covers that go over the lights were missing- he said something close to “because last time there was an explosion I got shot back across the room and those also came off.” The guy went on to explain to us kids how it was normally hypodermic needles that got stuck in the stack and they’d draw straws to see who would have to climb into the trash to retrieve it. After this last bit the principal who was in our group basically shoved all of us out of there and we finished the rest of the tour pretty quick.

    Oh- and then in high school we got to tour a nuclear reactor. And there weren’t enough school buses to bring us back because some of them had to leave- and then the ice storm came in and half of us had to hike back to school. The teacher gave those of us forced to hike five extra credit points- when one kid complained the retort was “no one in their right mind would have hiked back.” Gotta love field trips in Ohio….

  3. J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E.,

    I may only be a visitor to these parts, but I find you to be a person of thought and reason. I never have a problem with someone who takes the time to think, and then, takes the time to share those thoughts.

  4. There are initial impressions and there is detailed analysis which may follow initial impressions. The web site of the Springfield, Ohio Springfield News-Sun apparently has the original video included by Professor Turley and another video which does show arcing wires. Incomplete information is incomplete.

    The wires which fell to the ground near the people in the video included above were disconnected by the falling tower, as evident in the other video on the News-Sun site.

    On the News-Sun web site I found the following after-the-fact perspective from Lisa Kelly, the reported owner of the demolition company, Advanced Explosives Demolition, Inc., “Nobody’s happy with things that go wrong in life, and sometimes it’s out of our hands and beyond anybody’s prediction … We’re all extremely thankful no one was injured or hurt.”

    Where I, personally, have profound difficulty with after-the-fact imputed tort liability is my sense that such liability contains a falsehood, to wit, that anything which happened could, after the fact, have been done differently before the fact by using the information gathered only during the process of the fact. Why? Because the actual information gathered only during the fact did not exist before the fact.

    That is the essence of what I, as a bioengineer, find to be the essence of what I have named, “The Fundamental Error of Social Reality.”

    Sorry about this, and, if asked to cease and desist on this blog, will do so. Nonetheless, I will seek to effectively share what I find I have learned about the nature of human brain function, learning, and mistakes until someone who demonstrably understands the science of the work I do finds a way to refute the work I do.

    I was not mistaken that I saw no arcing in the video put here by Professor Turley, and I have looked at it several times. Arcing, which indicates to me that the power lines were energized when struck by the tower, is clear in the alternative video on the Springfield News-Sun web site.

    If scientific psychoanalysis was invented by Sigmund Freud somewhat over a hundred years ago, scientific psychology is such a new human endeavor as to be scarcely into its infancy, as compared with the whole of recorded human history.

    To me, and perhaps to no one else, not ever, the adversarial system of jurisprudence is grounded in a mistake about the nature of mistakes which happened prior to the recording of human history in written form. Accordingly, the adversarial system is, to me a mistake the consequences of which have been and remain, to use Lisa Kelly’s phrase, “out of our hands and beyond anybody’s prediction.”

    I merely seek to learn, without actually harming anyone, whether I, or perchance anyone else, can plausibly bring into the capability of human prediction the plausible consequences of adversarial approaches to existence or to any aspect of existence.

    I do not mind being excoriated, nor criticized, nor ignored. Such has been almost the whole of my life story, with respect to human society, thus far. I got used to such in infancy.

    My dad worked for one or more railroads during summers to earn money for college. He had been trained as a master carpenter by his dad, who was a master carpenter, and my dad similarly trained me.

    For railfans who worked for railroads, a caboose is usually called a “way car,” and a railroad station or rail yard is a “terminal” because that is where a train stops at the end of a run or segment of a run.

    When I was in high school, my dad remarked to me, in effect, “You have no terminal facilities. Long after everyone else has given up, you just keep on going and keep on going.”

    If told, in an authoritative way, that I do not belong here, I will find somewhere else, where I may, or may not, belong. What I will not do, of my own will, is to give up learning about truthfulness and decency and authentic kindness, nor will I give up learning about deception in such forms as deception “tells me” it takes.

    The arcing power lines may illustrate the way I question every aspect of my life as an incorrigible skeptic, and who, as an incorrigible skeptic, is more skeptical of skepticism than anything else. Noting in the video put here by Professor Turley informed me that the power lines arced.

    When I found a written reference to the power lines having arced, I searched for verifiable evidence, and did not trust what I saw in the video I saw first.

    In much the same manner, when I hear that someone made an avoidable mistake, I am skeptical. I await the solution to the need for the future to actually have preceded the past, in a practicable way, and when I hear of such a solution which I cannot reject with skepticism, I will grab onto the traditional view, my work having properly been dumped into the trash of human stupidities.

    Oh, in both videos of the smokestack demolition, the tower began to move in the intended direction, until something (not anticipated or recognized) (the undetected crack?) essentially reversed the direction of the torque near the base of the smokestack.

    To me, aspects of the adversarial system of jurisprudence are much like that smokestack. If doing hurtful things to people needs to be punished, then we cannot punish people in hurtful ways to teach people to not do hurtful things to people.

    It is, to me, as I study human history and what I can find of human prehistoric myths, as though the adversarial approach started out as to go in the right way, and, before anyone could do anything about it, came crashing down on humanity much as that smokestack came down on the auxiliary generator building in the videos here mentioned.

    As in the manner of Lisa Kelly’s after-the-fact observation(s), sometimes things happen which could not have been prevented because they could not actually have been anticipated well enough in advance to permit their prevention. In the world in which I actually am able to live, every “bad thing” that happens is like that, unpreventable before the fact, which fact we can truly know after the fact merely because it was not prevented before the fact.

  5. BBB,

    I remember reading about a “contest” in which people were asked to submit descriptions of business managers whose conduct was akin to that of Scott Adam’s Dilbert’s “double pointy-hair boss>

    If I recall my favorite submission correctly, it was of a boss who sent out a memo to the effect, “What I need is a specific list of the unforeseeable problems we will encounter (during a project).”

    I agree that children have “not yet learned about all the things that can be dangerous.”

    Neither, as best I can yet discern, has anyone or anything else learned about all the things that can be dangerous.

    Were I to speculatively conjecture, I would offer the thought that most of the things that can be dangerous do not yet exist, because they have neither evolved nor been created.

    For myself, as best I can tell, I actually live in that “sweet spot.” Of course, I make mistakes, and may be mistaken in this.

    To me, in my personal life, the “sweet spot” takes the form of my finding that I live in a world in which things happen, and nothing which happens happened exactly identically previously, because, for two things to actually be exactly the same, they have to happen in exactly the same way in exactly the same place at exactly the same time, and therefore, if two things are actually the same, there is exactly one, and only one, of them.

    So, in my personal life, dangers are about what I may wisely learn to avoid doing, and I only learn of such by doing them or by someone else having done them and my having learned what they did.

    In my life, all the dangers are comprised of forms of deception and/or dishonesty. However, in the “sweet spot” of my personal life, I intend to never develop enough experience as to allow me to be able to ignore such dangers as I have encountered nor ignore such dangers as a system-dynamics approach to the future allows me to anticipate.

    I do what my life situation both allows and requires that I do, and do not else. Therefore, in my personal life, whatever I find I was able to do in response to a new situation is inextricably sufficient, because I was not, after the fact, able to have inerrant after-the-fact understanding before the fact.

    And I sleep very well at night because it is my conscientious resolve, to the limit of my practicable ability, to never harm anyone in any intentionally deliberate way.

    If I have learned something some other people may eventually find useful, if I can ever describe what I have learned well enough that someone else might understand it with a decent modicum of accuracy, and if what I describe might help someone else avoid danger, then I would harm such a person if I do not engage in the effort to describe what I have learned.

    In my work in engineering, I have often made practical use of Ohm’s Law (E = I * R, where E is voltage, I is current, and R is resistance), and Ohm’s Law is a description of an entity, because the physical world allows no violation I have ever heard of of Ohm’s Law.

    The apparent “failures” which I find humans encounter are never failures of what I deem to be “entities,” but are, and are only, failures of what I deem to be “constructs.” Constructs are, to me, confabulations people do to fill in the gaps between entities.

    It seems to me that, as humanity continues its existence (or evolution?), constructs tend to be replaced by entities as our understanding of ourselves and our environments (inner and outer) develops.

    By the time I was in grade school, it has become blatantly obvious to me that my ignorance is at least infinite and my knowledge no more than an infinitesimal. Hence, I make no effort to reduce my ignorance, and make what effort I find my life situation allows me to make to expand my knowledge and understanding.

    What I am able to do is always good enough because it is what I am able to do. I only learn what I am able to do after I have done it.

  6. J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E.

    “It is my personal observation that young children tend to recognize and respond to possible danger much faster than adults tend to respond.

    Why? Perhaps because young children have been less shamed about responding to possible danger because they have encountered fewer situations in which there was possible danger which never became actual danger.”

    I think you hit the mark. I have made the same observations when trying to get adults to acknowledge that government has gone awry. Though we encounter many dangerous situations on a daily basis, we have come to accept that the majority of those situations pose no reliable indicator of likely injury. We learn to ignore them. Children, however, have not yet learned to ignore them. Unfortunately, children have also not yet learned about all the things that can be dangerous.

    Have you been able to find the “sweet spot”? The one where we have enough knowledge to recognize all the dangers, but not had enough experience to ignore them?

  7. Much of the background work of my doctorate was accomplished while I worked in Pediatric Cardiology at Cook County Children’s Hospital, the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research, and the University of Illinois at the Medical Center Research and Educational Hospital, all in Chicago.

    It is my personal observation that young children tend to recognize and respond to possible danger much faster than adults tend to respond.

    Why? Perhaps because young children have been less shamed about responding to possible danger because they have encountered fewer situations in which there was possible danger which never became actual danger.

    Consider “driving under the influence.” Adults who drive under the influence tend to “get away with it” time after time before something bad happens. Every time an adult “gets away with it,” the notion that one will always “get away with it” is reinforced as an exercise of operant conditioning.

  8. Interesting! The little blonde girl, closest to the tower, appears to be the first to recognize the danger and start to get the hell out of there. Was she paying better attention than the adults? Did she, consciously or subconsciously, recognize that she could not run as fast as the adults? Something permitted that child to have a heightened sense of awareness.

  9. In working with my doctoral thesis committee in an effort to find someone who was able to both understand my thesis accurately and demonstrate a plausible error in it, I devised two operational definitions.

    Because my field work, for Office of Protection From Research Risks approval, was named, “An Inquiry into the Nature of Mistakes,” I first set out to define the word, “mistake” in the least mistaken way I could imagine, and so defined mistake thus:

    “A mistake occurs when someone does something and what happens as a result is not exactly, in every detail, precisely what was anticipated.”

    Because I was doing my thesis at an institution of higher learning, I also set out to define “learning,” and my operational definition of “learning” was, and remains:

    “Learning occurs when someone does something and what happens as a result is not exactly, in every detail, precisely what was anticipated.”

    There is “the law of rational inference,” which I find usefully stated as:

    “If, in certain particulars, A is the same as B, and if, in those same certain particulars, B is the same as C, then, in those same certain particulars, C is the same as A.”

    The particulars as described above for “mistake” and for “learning” are the same, therefore, in accord with the law of rational inference, the described process of making mistakes and the described process of learning are the same process.

    Hence, it is my lifelong direct observation that the effort people seem (to me, if to no one else) to make to prevent the making of mistakes is a process which, to such extent as said process actually works, teaches people to not learn, and some form of learned helplessness seems to me to invariably ensue.

    Then there is English translation of a “Taoist song,” as found on page 83 of Sam Smith, “Why Bother” (Feral House, Los Angeles, CA, 2001):

    As the sun rises, I get up
    As the sun sets, I go to rest
    I dig a well for my drink
    I till the field for my food.
    What has the power of the emperor to do with me?

    To me, and I cannot tell about anyone else, “the emperor” is lying as described in “The Liar in Your Life,” by U. Massachusetts psychologist, Robert Feldman (Twelve, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009).

    To me, and I cannot tell about anyone else, the way of the emperor is time-corrupted learning, as described in “The Trauma Spectrum,” by retired neurologist Robert Scaer (W. W. Norton, New York, 2005).

    To me, and I cannot tell about anyone else,” the social process of “the emperor” is tort liability” with respect to “proximate cause,” in accord with some words I have found in Black’s Law Dictionary, Ninth Edition:

    Black’s Law Dictionary, Ninth Edition (Thomson Reuters, St. Paul, 2009);
    “proximate cause,” as found on page 250:

    proximate cause. 1. A cause that is legally sufficient to result in liability. 2. A cause that directly produces an event and without which the event would not have occurred. — Also termed direct cause; direct and proximate cause; efficient proximate cause; efficient cause; efficient adequate cause; legal cause; procuring cause; producing cause; primary cause; jural cause.

    “The four ‘tests’ or ‘clues’ of proximate cause in a criminal case are (1) expediency, (2) isolation, (3) foreseeability, and (4) intention.” Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 823 (3d ed. 1982).

    ” ‘Proximate cause’ — in itself an unfortunate term — is merely the limitation which the courts have placed upon the actor’s responsibility for the consequences of the actor’s conduct. In a philosophical sense, the consequences of an act go forward to eternity, and the causes of an event go back to the dawn of human events, and beyond. But any attempt to impose responsibility on such a basis would result in infinite liability for all wrongful acts, and would ‘set society on edge and fill the courts with endless litigation.’ [North v. Johnson, 58 Minn. 242, 59 N.W. 1012 (1894).] “As a practical matter, legal responsibility must be limited to those causes which are so closely connected with the result and of such significance that the law is justified in imposing liability. Some boundary must be set to liability for the consequences of any act, upon some social idea of justice or policy.” W. Page Keeton, et. al., Prosser and Keeton on Torts § 41, at 264, (5th ed. 1984).

    from “tort” as found on page 1626:

    tort. 1. A civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usu. in the form of damages; a breach of duty that the law imposes on every one in the same relation to one another as those involved in a given transaction. 2. (pl.) The branch of law dealing with such wrongs.

    “To ask concerning any occurrence ‘Is this a crime or is it a tort?’ is — to borrow Sir James Stephen’s apt illustration — no wiser than it would be to ask concerning a man, ‘Is he a father or a son?’ For he may be both.” J.W. Cecil Turner, Kenny’s Outline of Criminal Law 543 (16th ed. 1952).

    “We may … define a tort as a civil wrong for which the remedy is a common-law action for unliquidated damages, and which is not exclusively a breach of a contract or the breach of a trust or other merely equitable obligation.” R.F.V Heuston, Salmand on the Law of Torts 13 (17th ed. 1977).

    “It might be possible to define a tort by enumerating the things it is not. It is not a crime, it is not a breach of contract, it is not necessarily concerned with property rights or problems of government, but it is the occupant of a large residuary field remaining if these are taken out of the law. But this again is illusory, and the conception of a sort of legal garbage-can to hold what can be put nowhere else is of no help. In the first place, tort is a field which pervades the entire law, and is so interlocked at every point with property, contract, and other accepted classifications that, as the student of law soon discovers, the categories are quite arbitrary. In the second, there is a central theme, or basis, or idea, running through the cases of what are called torts, which, although difficult to put into words, does distinguish them in greater or lesser degree from other types of cases.” W. Page Keeton, et al., The Law of Torts § 1, at 2-3 (5th ed. 1984).

    Given the fact, and a fact is surely is, that I am not a member of the bar, what license have I which permits me to ponder “the law” in any way whatsoever? As seems to have stirred up some hostility directed toward me on this blog, I am licensed as a Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer (No. 34106-6) and I wrote a Ph.D. dissertation, “Mental Health and Mental Illness: Cause, Purpose, Cure, and Prevention; A Bioengineering Perspective” (University of Illinois at Chicago, 1998), and, as a Registered Professional Engineer, working in an area of my established (via the Ph.D. dissertation) professional competence, I find that I am, in fact, a competent “expert witness” with regard to the human brain biology in terms of learning and mistakes.

    Furthermore, I find that the structure of the law, as I can make any sense of it, mandates that I do what I do the way I do it. How so?

    From Black’s Law Dictionary, Ninth Edition, page 1835:

    “Ignoranti excusatar non juris sed facti. Ignorance of fact is excused but not ignorance of law.”

    “Ignoranti judicis est calamitas innocentis. The ignorance of the judge is the misfortune of the innocent.”

    “Ignoranti juris quod quisque scire tenetur neminem excusat. Ignorance of the law, which everyone is bound to know, excuses no one.”

    (Of course?) I can readily find other legal maxims which counter those legal maxims. Such is, so I find as a Registered Professional Engineer, the nature of adversarial jurisprudence, for adversarial jurisprudence, as I observe it at work within living human brains, is its own best adversary.

    The only folks, methinks including several commentators on this legal blog, who firmly believe they can rebut the core argument of my work as a Registered Professional Engineer of expert witness caliber, are people who have not accurately understood said core argument, and, methinks, have not understood the core argument because I have not yet been able to find words to express said core argument sufficiently well for those who have not understood it accurately to do so.

    I find, as a Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer, and therefore, as a qualified expert witness, that the traditional notion of “guilt” is a form of delusion, and the affective state of shame is not the result of having actually done something overtly wrong, but results from believing, in often-tragic error, that one could, after the fact, have decided to act differently before the fact.

    As for the quantum-mechanical coupling of the future to the past, (as one commentator here wrote) such coupling is mutually reciprocal, and there is no evident way to discern whether the effect of the future on the past is not identically the effect of the past on the future.

    I would truly welcome, in the manner of dialogue, as dialogue has been described by “The Dialogue Group” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a deep and pervasive evaluation of the nature of learning and learning about the nature of mistakes. Alas, I am unable to accept the notions of the past regarding mistakes and learning because I find such notions both unlearned and mistaken, and find them tragically so.

    Absent time-corrupted learning, and its ilk, it is my consistent observation that what happens, how, when, why, where, and to whom it happens, is always both necessary and sufficient, and any beliefs contrary to this are, as best I can yet discern, addictively delusional.

    As for the utility smokestack, in the video, I observed no “arcing” as the power lines came down, hence I suspect that the power lines were not energized when the falling smokestack struck them. Also, it is rather apparent to me that the folks who set out to topple the smokestack did not expect it to fall onto the power lines, and, because they did not expect this, they were unable to prevent it.

    However, it would seem that the people were far enough away as to be able to avoid anyone being injured by the mistaken expectation of how the smokestack would fall, and far enough away as to be able to avoid being injured by the falling power lines.

    Ergo, no actual tort liability, according to my view as a Registered Professional Engineer, who, unlike any attorney-at-law I have yet encountered, has poured decades of scientific diligence into making sense of the brain biology of human mistakes.

    I have run my work past Arthur Schwartz, Esq., the General Counsel of the National Society of Professional Engineers, in a due-diligence effort to discern whether my work ought not be done, and he was not able to give me any ethical reason to not continue, nor could he refute or rebut the core finding of my work, that no mistake ever actually made either could or should have been avoided.

    As Thomas Kuhn, in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” has suggested, perhaps, from time to time, a dramatically new, and ultimately useful, paradigm emerges from the work of scientists.

    The predicament of a dramatically new scientific paradigm is the proclivity of people not yet attuned to the new paradigm to be heavily invested in the old paradigm, come hell, high water, or genocide.

  10. After reading Bob Esq’s arguments on the Happy Meals thread, infra, and under Lockean and Kantian analysis, I see no need to regulate the demolition of smoke stacks while in the presence of children who might be harmed or killed. I suggest we invest in running shoes and physical education as taught by the parents.

  11. The late Derek “Blaster” Bates was an English explosives expert and comedien who used his day job as the main source of material for his act.

    He would have a thing or two to say about this, as up in the North we had a lot of old wool mills being demolished – every one had a chimney such as this. Bates made a speciality of being able to drop a 300 foot chimney with its top hitting the deck between 2 oil drums placed 20 feet apart.

  12. Buddha,

    Personally, I’m a big fan of gravity. It makes trampolines that much more fun.

    Recently read one of Jay Lake’s straight Sci-fi, “Death of a Starship.” It reminds me a bit of Blish’s “A Case of Conscience.” I’ve read three of Lake’s books at this point, and in all three the ending was unexpected. Which is a rare thing. He has a skill for letting the reader know only as much as the main characters.

  13. Murphy was right. If it can, it will. And in the worst possible manner, caused by the cheapest part.

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