Nation: Tower of Death

The toll: 51 workers

To the Shawnee Indians, the jagged mountains of West Virginia were "a dark and bloody ground," a realm of ferocious evil spirits best avoided. But there was no hint of danger on a sunny morning last week when 51 steelworkers, carpenters and laborers clambered 168 ft. up scaffolding inside a cooling tower at the Pleasants Power Station near St. Marys, W. Va., a hamlet of 2,348 nestled between verdant hills and the Ohio River. When completed, the 450-ft. tower will cool water used by the generating plant before returning it to the river.

Suddenly, a rumbling, thunderous crash rolled...