A freak accident led to the fatal fall of Bill Russell’s son

The Aurora Coop's Murphy elevator and annex. Jim Russell died in a fall during the elevator's construction.

The Aurora Cooperative’s Murphy elevator and annex. Jim Russell died in a fall during the elevator’s construction. Photo by Kurt Glinn. 

Story by Ronald Ahrens

My uncle, Tim Tillotson, recalls some details of the death of a son of Bill Russell, a superintendent for Tillotson Construction Company. Russell was the father of eight sons in all. The accident occurred in the 1950s

Although he can’t remember which job [it was the Aurora Cooperative's Murphy location in central Nebraska] or when it happened, Uncle Tim, who was not present at the time, recalls from on-the-scene reports that two of Russell’s sons were running the night crew.

The two were working with a storey pole, a measuring device of ancient origin. In this case, the storey pole was a metal tape, and it was used to verify the height of vertical sections. One son was on top, fifty-five feet up, feeding the tape down to the other on the ground.

“It was blowing in the wind, and he was letting it out,” Uncle Tim says. “The wind caught it to some power lines, and it gave him a jolt.”

A fall to the ground ensued.

“One side of him hit the Georgia buggy, which kind of spun him around. He was conscious on the ground, saying he thought he’d broken a leg. But by the time the ambulance got there, he’d died of shock.”

Uncle Tim suggests the likelihood of a brain hemorrhage as well.

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6 comments on “A freak accident led to the fatal fall of Bill Russell’s son

  1. Kurt Giinn says:

    I was the manager at the Aurora Cooperative Murphy location, in central Nebraska. I was told from the old timers in the area that were around when the elevator was built in the late 50′s, the same type of accident happened there. Shutting down construction for about a week.

    • Greetings, Kurt. We need to make a correction in the post. My uncle’s memory was probably incorrect. Just yesterday afternoon I had a phone conversation with Dennis Russell, the youngest brother of the eight. He mentioned “Murphy, Nebraska” as the location. It wasn’t possible to find a town called Murphy, Nebraska. But you have shed some light. Thanks for your comment.

      • Kurt Giinn says:

        Murphy is no more that an elevator along the rail road now, it is 6 miles west of Aurora, NE or 15 miles east of Grand Island, NE.

      • We’ve taken out “Iowa” from the post. Look for more details to come on this tragic accident. Dennis Russell is looking for a photo of his brother Jim, who died in the fall, and will also be talking to his brother.

      • Kurt Giinn says:

        I have been trying to upload pictures of the Murphy elevator but not having any luck. If you have a chance to get me a contact email, I can forward what I have.

  2. Mustang.Koji says:

    How horrible… The pain of burying one of your offspring has got to be unbearable…

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