Widow sues over man's death in empty water tower

By Steve Gonzalez | Jul 11, 2007

Southland Water Tower

The widow of a Brussels man who died after falling while working inside an empty water tower filed a wrongful death suit in Madison County Circuit Court against Jerseyville County Rural Water Company.

Janet Schleeper also of Brussels in Calhoun County claims her late husband Leo Schleeper died while lawfully cleaning, inspecting and disinfecting the water tower on Oct. 24, 2006, pursuant to a contract with the water company and Leo's employer Heneghan and Associates.

According to the complaint filed June 27 by Swansea attorney Tom Keefe, Jerseyville County Rural Water owned and held exclusive control of Southland Tower, a 200,000 gallon elevated water tower.

Schleeper claims Leo was climbing a 35 foot ladder to the top of the tank which was they only way to exit the inside of the tank when he fell 28 feet and landed on the bottom steel bowl. The Southland water tower is five miles south of Jerseyville.

She claims the water company negligently and carelessly failed to provide Leo with a safe place to work by failing to equip the inside of the eater tower with a fixed ladder to safely access and egress from inside the bowl and failed to protect him from a dangerous condition when they knew, or should have known the dangerous condition involved an unreasonable risk of harm.

Schleeper also claims co-defendant Caldwell Tanks of Louisville Kentucky negligently manufactured and installed the tower by failing to equip it with an inside fixed ladder when the tower was built in 1993.

According to the complaint, Leo's next of kin have been permanently deprived of his love, companionship, society, support, guidance and incurred hospital and burial expenses in a substantial amount.

Schleeper is seeking damages in excess of $150,000.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian.

In February, a Jersey County coroner's jury returned a verdict of undetermined as to how Leo, 55, died.

Autopsy results showed head and neck blunt force trauma was the cause of Leo's death. No drugs or alcohol were in his system.

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