Special to the Sun
Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 | 12:35 p.m.
Herbert Goforth Jr. was eating lunch in the cafeteria at NV Energy on Tuesday when he locked eyes with a man from the safety department. He didn’t need to hear the words to know something had happened to his son Herbie Goforth III.
The day before, Goforth III — a newly anointed journeyman lineman — told his father that he was to learn a new technique climbing a nearly 100-foot tower and work on a 500-kilovolt energy line Tuesday. Goforth Jr., an executive at NV Energy, knew this was no ordinary job. A man had died working at a similar line years ago. It made him so nervous that he called his son a second time to warn him to be careful.
The man from the safety department confirmed Goforth Jr.’s worst fears. Goforth III had fallen nearly 100 feet from the tower and died. He had just achieved his goal of becoming a journeyman lineman. He was supposed to turn 30 the next day, be married Oct. 6 and go to the Bahamas for his honeymoon.
Instead, his family had to plan his funeral.
“It was just a tragedy of all the things that he had worked to accomplish, the man he had become,” Goforth Jr. said. “For him to lose his life like that — it was just the worst thing a parent could ever experience.”
Goforth Jr. knows there would’ve been no persuading his son not to go that day. Goforth III, a Cimarron High School and UNLV graduate, considered being a journeyman lineman his calling.
“People said they never saw him when wasn’t smiling,” Goforth Jr. said. “He loved working for NV Energy. He loved working as a lineman.”
It takes five years and about 10,000 hours of work as an apprentice lineman and countless hours studying after work to become a journeyman. It’s a grueling job that takes a lot of skill to climb poles and work with high-voltage equipment. Not everyone has the aptitude to be a lineman.
Goforth Jr. said his son was told that he might not become one. Although most linemen are big, Goforth III weighed only 140 pounds. People initially criticized him, saying he was too small and didn’t have the fortitude to do the job.
He learned his techniques at Northwest Lineman College in Oroville, Calif. He studied on his days off as an apprentice, and he soon developed the thick neck and sturdy upper body of a lineman. By the end of his training, he could tie 20 knots in the air as easy as someone brushes his teeth.
He had dreams of becoming a troubleshooter, the first person on the scene when there is a power failure.
Goforth Jr. said any co-worker would say Goforth III was “an excellent climber, very knowledgeable and good at anything. Not just kind of good ... really good.”
Goforth III’s parents and fiancee have barely slept since he died, and they spent what would have been his 30th birthday making funeral arrangements. They have received hundreds of emails from people who knew Goforth III or worked with him.
But what has stuck with Goforth Jr. the most is a picture he saw on the Nevada journeyman lineman group page on Facebook. A line of boom trucks parked at the lineman service center had their booms raised as high as they can go. It is called the “flying of the booms.”
It was a tribute to a fallen lineman.
It was for Herbie Goforth III.