Electrocution from Power Lines – A Cautionary Tale…

We were recently retained in another tragic power line incident. This past Friday, a family from San Bernardino was devastated when it lost three family members that came into contact with a downed power line. Unfortunately, I have had experience working on devastating cases involving power lines, and know that the resulting injuries are usually immediate and fatal.

One such case involved a father and husband who lost his life when his aluminum pool brush came in contact with an energized line in his own backyard.

Last week, an explosion awoke a family before daybreak. The noise resulted from a downed power line that had fallen into the family yard, setting fires in both the front and back of the home. The father, apparently trying to put out a fire in the backyard, came too close to the power line, and collapsed. The wife and eldest son, coming to the father’s defense, also collapsed upon contact with either the father or the downed line or its arc. All three were killed.

These tragedies illustrate the need to get widespread information out to the public about the danger involved in approaching a downed power line, or trying to assist a person that may be in contact with a “live wire.” Please take a moment to consider the following safety tips: (“Much easier said than done.”)

  • If you see a downed power line, ASSUME it is energized and stay away. Call 911 immediately.
  • While you will have to fight your instincts, never come within 20 feet of any person or object in contact with a downed power line.
  • Metal acts as a conductor! If you must assist someone, only use wooden sticks or poles. Using a metal object, such as a metal pool cleaning net, will send the current from the downed person to you.
  • If you should be in a vehicle that is in contact with an overhead power line, DON’T LEAVE THE VEHICLE. As long as you stay inside and avoid touching metal on the vehicle, you may avoid an electrical hazard. If you need to get out to summon help or because of fire, jump out without touching any wires or the machine, keep your feet together, and hop to safety.
  • Never work in the vicinity of overhead lines unless you are trained or authorized to do so. If low overhead lines are close to your trees or property, contact your local power company about the hazard.
  • Look Up, Look Out, Locate before you start to trim trees near power lines at home. Wooden or fiberglass ladders will not act as conductors, but metal and aluminum ladders do!
  • Satellite receiver antennas should not be mounted on power poles.
  • Be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Losing a loved one can be a devastating and traumatic experience. While the public depends on our power companies to keep us safe from faulty lines (a duty they often fail to perform, such as this recent catastrophe), we can help our community by teaching our friends and family about the danger of approaching power lines.

Wylie Aitken, Esq.