Two utility workers were killed in a mysterious electrocution accident while performing work which was supposed to be non-electrical in Orange County, New York on Monday, August 19, 2019.
The two workers, who have been identified as Derrick Paris, 51, and Justin McLoughlin, 28, had previously been to this property and were at this job site just one week ago, according to the NBC segment on this tragic accident. NBC reports that the men were called to inspect “the long braided-metal support line which helps hold up tall power poles,” sometimes called guy wires.
These ‘guy wires’ are not supposed to have any electricity running through them. Unfortunately, and for reasons that are not yet understood, however, “the guy wire they were inspecting was energized,” causing both workers to be fatally electrocuted. The tragic scene was discovered when the electrocution started a fire, which “destroyed the ATVs” that the two men used to get to the job site.
The two workers were contracted by Orange and Rockland Utilities from a company called EJ Electric. It is not yet understood why the support wire the men responded to was energized. The utilities company and the New York State Public Service Commission are investigating how this tragedy could have been allowed to occur.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of the two deceased men, who could never have anticipated that such a routine call could go so horribly wrong.
Guy wires are cables meant to support free-standing structures and are not unique to utility poles. When they are used to support utility poles, however, they are always grounded or insulated so that the electric charge cannot travel down near where the wire meets the ground.
Although these wires are absolutely not intended to conduct electricity, it is still strongly recommended that people do not touch them. This is one reason why the bottoms of such wires are often covered in a rubber sheath, so that passersby can easily distinguish and stay away from the wires.
Utility workers should be trained to safely work in environments where electrocution is a potential hazard. By all reports, however, the work these men were performing on this day was in no way supposed to expose them to an active electrical current. This would seem to indicate that the wires were not properly grounded or insulated.
The question that needs to be answered, assuming that the workers had indeed worked near this pole before, is what conditions changed, that compromised the insulation or grounding of these poles?
In situations where workers are working with electrical wires, it is protocol to de-energize the wires so that they can be safely handled. The hazards and consequences of not doing this create the possibility of an electrocution accident, such as in this $2,600,000 settlement that Block O’Toole & Murphy won for a Con Ed worker who was electrocuted by a power line that should have been de-energized.
But it doesn’t sound like the workers who lost their lives in this accident were working with wires that were supposed to be electrified. So even though it is possible to be electrocuted without making direct contact with an electrical source, these poles and wires absolutely should have been grounded and insulated so that utility workers could safely work near the base of the pole without having to power down the lines in the area.
This was a freak accident that never should have occurred. If utility pole guy wires become unexpectedly energized, they pose a potentially fatal electrocution risk not just to utility workers, but to any passersby walking near the wires, never suspecting that such a common piece of equipment could be carrying a fatal voltage.
Hopefully, an investigation reveals how this accident happened so that the responsible parties can be held responsible, and so that the families of these two men can receive some small modicum of justice.