S.C. Man Injured in Apparent Power Theft Bid

A South Carolina man was hospitalized after he made contact with electricity in an apparent power theft attempt.

Power lines around a house can represent a safety issue if mishandled, as an incident in South Carolina shows. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Power lines around a house can represent a safety issue if mishandled, as an incident in South Carolina shows. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The man, whose name had not been released, was using jumper cables on the morning of April 17 in an effort to get power from Pickens-based Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, officials said.

According to the co-op, Blue Ridge had previously disconnected service to the location in the Friendship community near Seneca because the electric bill had gone unpaid.

Preliminary reports said the individual placed an aluminum ladder against a Blue Ridge power pole.

"Upon climbing the ladder, the person employed jumper cables in an effort to restore power at the residence. At some point, the individual made contact with an energized conductor," the co-op said in a statement.

Local medical personnel transported the man to a hospital for treatment. The co-op said it had made inquiries as to his condition, but no information was available about the extent of his injuries or the location of his treatment. The cables might have been used to bypass the meter.

Terry Ballenger, manager of communications at Blue Ridge Electric, said the incident underscores the need to understand the dangers associated with electricity and power theft, as has occurred in others cases across the country.

The co-op has specific safety advice on its website, including a warning against using aluminum ladders near power poles.

"Electrical safety is our priority for our employees and for our members. We cannot emphasize that enough because incidents like this are very preventable," Ballenger said. "The primary wires carry 7,200 volts of electricity and contacting them will result in serious injury or a fatality."

Ballenger also noted that there are much better options for members struggling to pay their electric bills.

"There are a good number of human-assistance agencies within the Blue Ridge service area.  These organizations, many of whom have received support from our charity fundraiser, Blue Ridge Fest, are prepared to help in such situations.  In addition, the cooperative is more than willing to set up a work-out or arrangement period for the member.  This mechanism permits that member to pay the bill in installments over a longer time span."

The Oconee County Sheriff's Office is investigating the case.

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