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Downed Powerline Results In Fatality Of Three People

The deaths of three members of a Southern California family who touched a downed power line is a tragic reminder that electricity can kill, utility officials said today.

"This tragedy serves as a reminder that you should never touch a downed power line and always should assume that any power line is live and electricity is flowing through it,'' said David Geier, vice president of electric operations for San Diego Gas & Electric.

On the morning of Jan. 14, a man, his wife and their 21-year-old son were electrocuted when they touched a downed 12,000-volt line in the backyard of their home in the Northpark area of San Bernardino County.


According to news accounts, the father was the first to touch the wire, and his wife and son were killed when they tried to rescue him.

Much like water flowing downhill, electricity travels from a high-voltage level to a low-voltage location, which can be the ground, SDG&E officials explained. If someone touches a power line, he or she becomes the path for the electricity to travel to the ground and is likely to suffer severe injury or death.

"If you encounter a downed power line, stay away from it, and never touch the line or anyone or anything in contact with it," Geier said.

According to utility officials, people should stay clear of downed power lines and call 911.

They should assume that all power lines are energized, and if someone does come in contact with a live wire, only a qualified electrical worker should attempt a rescue.


If a vehicle you are in comes in contact with a live wire, wait until help arrives, warn others not to touch the vehicle and call 911.

If the vehicle is on fire and you must get out, open a door or window and jump clear without touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Do not allow yourself to become a path of electricity from the vehicle to the ground.

When you are working around electric overhead lines, watch where you are going and don't touch them.

Keep all machinery, equipment, and materials at least 10 feet away from the lines.

If it looks like the lines will be in your way, call SDG&E at (800) 411-SDGE (7343). Depending on the nature of your job, SDG&E might be able to turn off the electricity, cover the lines or even move them temporarily while you complete your work.

Do not remove anything caught in electric lines, including animals. Instead, call SDG&E immediately.

Hazards you don't see, like buried electric lines, are easy to ignore or forget. Digging, drilling or blasting can damage these underground lines and cause electrocution or fire.

To avoid an accident, call SDG&E's Underground Alert Service at (800) 227-2600. SDG&E will send someone to your site for free to show you exactly where our lines are buried.

If you see an open transformer or other piece of equipment, call SDG&E. Do not touch the equipment, as this could lead to injury or death.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.