Downed live power line causes Detroit woman’s electrocution

DTE had put up “caution tape” after Metro Detroit wind storm, but could fatal contact with live power line have been prevented if utility had cut electricity or stationed “wire down” personnel to guard the public?

Metro Detroit woman electrocuted from contact with downed DTE live power line

There’s no way to tell just by looking at a power line if it is a live power line that has been downed or a “dead” power line, i.e., one that is no longer carrying electricity.

That’s why it can literally mean the difference between life and death that you stay at least 35 feet away from any downed power lines you encounter and call 9-1-1 immediately.

A recent tragedy in Detroit is a grave reminder of this hidden lethal danger.

As a result of the strong wind storm that blew through the Metro Detroit area on May 4, 2018, many of the city’s power lines were downed.

Even though some of these may have included poorly maintained infrastructure that’s prone to failure, far too many of the downed lines included “live” wires – power lines that are still carrying deadly amounts of electricity.

Tragically, a Detroit woman in her 70s was electrocuted by one such live power line in the 1600 block of E. State Fair near Dequindre, according to various news reports.

Fox 2 Detroit reported that utility crews who were in the area to repair damage from the wind storm discovered the woman’s body: She was “found dead with a power line in her hand Monday evening” and DTE “confirmed the woman came into contact with a live wire.”

DTE, which is still investigating the electrocution of this woman according to The Detroit News, issued a statement which urged people to remember “the importance of staying at least 20 feet away from any down wire and assume that it is live.”

What would an electrocution lawyer would be investigating about this downed live power line?  

One of the curious things about this tragedy is the mention in several news reports that the woman’s body was found “in an area that had been blocked by yellow caution tape …”

I am not involved in this case with DTE (although I’ve litigated many cases with DTE in the past).  I read this and immediately found it curious to say the least because if DTE knew the downed power lines in the area posed a serious enough danger to residents to cordon off the area with yellow tape, then why didn’t DTE cut all of the power to those downed lines or at least station “wire down personnel” to guard the scene and protect the innocent public from a lethal danger?

The danger of a live power line spreads far and wide

It’s important for people to know that the risk of electrocution isn’t limited to those people who make physical contact with a downed live power line.

As I noted in my blog post, “A downed wire can still kill you — even if you don’t touch it”:

“[Y]ou do not even have to touch or make direct-touch contact with a live wire in order to suffer serious electrical injury or death. Just being within up to 35 feet of a downed power line, for example walking toward it so you can call for help, can cause you to be electrocuted. It’s an effect called ‘step potential.’ As you walk toward the conductor of the electricity — whether a direct downed line or a crashed vehicle upon which the wire has landed — you’re stepping into invisible rippling rings of voltage. Each step, therefore, could potentially land in different voltages. And that voltage differential can then surge through you from one leg, go up your body, then down through the other leg. Knowing this if you see a downed line can mean the difference between life and death.”

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