Electrical incident in Carbonear leaves painter with burn injuries

Melissa Jenkins
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Carbonear volunteer fire fighter Jeff Squibb (in basket) was one of the first emergency responders on scene at a horrific electrocution incident that took place near Canadian Tire in Carbonear Aug. 18.

It was a terrifying sight for many onlookers at an industrial incident that took place near Canadian Tire in Carbonear on Aug. 18.

RCMP officers reported a man in his 50s, working for a Mount Pearl-based painting company, received significant but non-life threatening burns when the elevated work platform he was operating became entangled in electrical wires next to the north-east side of the building.

The incident occured just before 11:30 a.m.

The power lines effected hold some 12,500 volts of electricity, according to Newfoundland Power officials.

An off-duty officer was shopping at Canadian Tire at the time and police noted he heard a popping sound and headed outside. It was then the man in the bucket was seen in distress and authorities were notified.

NL Power shut down the power grid to Columbus Drive, leaving the Trinity Conception Square mall, all fast food outlets and other businesses without power for several hours.

Some witnesses were stunned at the sight of the man in a cherry picker tangled in the bottom two power lines. A few even hung around for a while to see if the injured would be ok.

Quick response

The Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department, Carbonear ambulance service, the RCMP and NL Power were all notified and immediately dispatched to the location where they found the man suspended in the air.

The fire department was on hand to assist in the recovery of the injured man and to deal with crowd control, said Fire Chief Ed Kavanagh.

Members of the fire department noted the man was conscious but very disoriented.

Firefighter Jeff Squibb was the chosen man to join NL Power inside the equipment’s basket.

He told The Compass his experience helping the electrocuted man.

“The initial call came in as an electrocution and that someone was stuck to a basket,” Squibb explained. “At first we thought it was a shopping cart (at Canadian Tire) that was involved. But then when arriving on scene we noticed the cherry picker up in the wires.”

When the first fire truck arrived on scene, Squibb said fire fighters could see the man moving around in the basket.

“It was great to see him stood up and moving,” he said, adding the man was “quite wobbly.”

Successful rescue

Squibb said NL Power was the last on the scene, arriving with its own elevated work platform and confirmed the vehicle could safely approach the wires.

“I was ready to go,” he explained. “That’s why I got in the basket. There was no wasting time.”

The man was not hooked in to the basket, said Squibb, but he wasn’t sure if it was because the man had unhooked himself after the incident.

“He was talking, conscious and alert when I was in the basket with him,” he continued. “He was able to help us help him into the NL power basket.”

Squibb stayed in the vehicle that was stuck in the wires, while the injured man was lowered to the ambulance by the NL power lift and immediately brought to Carbonear hospital.

He was then transported to the Health Science Centre in St. John’s.

“The gentlemen… had burns to his left arm, most of his left side and his face,” Squibb explained. “There was not much movement in his left arm whatsoever.”

The extent of the man’s injuries had not been released as of today (Aug. 20).

This was the first electrocution Squibb has responded to in his 16-years as a fire fighter.

“I have seen a few burn victims,” he said.

His father, Lewis Squibb, was a former fire chief.

“You could say I grew up at the fire hall,” Squibb said.

He was also a member of the junior fire brigade and cadets before becoming a fire fighter.

Keys were missing

One of the other jobs Squibb was appointed to do was retrieve the keys from the injured man as soon as the baskets were in close enough proximity.

The goal was to untangle the basket and move it away from the wires.

“Apparently there were two keys and we couldn’t find either of them,” he noted. “I checked his pockets, we looked everywhere. We had to hit the emergency stop button to turn the cherry picker off.”

Luckily the owner of the rental equipment lived in Harbour Grace and brought a spare key to the site, Squibb said. Then the basket was safely lowered to the ground and moved out of the way of the power lines.

Workplace electrical safety

In a booklet released by NL Power, SafeWork NL and Workplace health and safety compensation commission, the recommended minimum safety space between power lines and equipment is six metres.

“Workers must inspect each work site, before starting the job, to check for overhead lines,” it reads.

The instructions explain that if a piece of equipment makes contact with the power lines to stay in the vehicle since it is the “safest option.”

That is exactly what this man had done, but unfortunately he had already experienced an injury.

In the incidence of a downed power line or contact with a power line, NL Power advises to call their emergency line at 1-800-474-5711.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

Organizations: NL Power, Canadian Tire, RCMP Newfoundland Power The Compass Carbonear hospital Health Science Centre

Geographic location: Carbonear, Mount Pearl, Harbour Grace

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