An alert neighbor pulled an 8-year-old Salt Lake County boy, terribly burned and his clothes on fire, from a high-voltage transformer Friday and extinguished his flaming clothes.
The victim, Derrick Cole, was taken to University Medical Center with third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body and first- and second-degree burns over 20 percent of his body.The neighbor, Richard Martin, who Salt Lake County firefighters called a hero, told the Deseret News he saw a flash of light out his window, which is near the Utah Power & Light Co.'s Meadowbrook Substation, at 1175 Atherton Drive (1075 West).
Martin said he saw flames from his window about 5:30 p.m. "I looked closely and saw a boy on fire on top of a transformer in the substation.
"It was just instinct, I guess. I grabbed a throw rug and raced across the street, climbed a fence and got into the substation and climbed up the transformer tower. The boy's clothes were burning all over him, and I put out the fire and pulled the boy away from the transformer so he wouldn't touch any wires."
Martin, who had to scale a 6-foot chain-link fence topped by barbed wire and then climb 20 feet up the transformer tower to reach the boy, said he was surprised the boy was still alive.
"I thought he wouldn't be breathing and would be in cardiac arrest. But he talked to me and told me his name."
Salt Lake County Fire Department spokesman Dennis Steadman said the boy, who was playing with two friends near the substation, climbed a tree near the substation fence, went hand over hand along a limb and jumped over the fence into the substation.
Once inside, the boy climbed the transformer tower, climbed up past the transformer and then slipped and fell, coming in contact with 12,740 volts. The two friends did not enter the substation and were not hurt, fire officials said.
Steadman said he is surprised the boy lived through the accident. "It's not normal for anyone to survive such a jolt of high voltage. Mr. Martin is certainly a hero.
"I looked at the wires near the transformer. If the boy had been a couple of inches closer to one of the wires, Mr. Martin would have been electrocuted."
Fire officials said the victim lives in an apartment building near the substation. Witnesses told fire officials they have seen boys playing near the fence and climbing the tree near the substation fence before.
Steadman said he will see to it that the tree is cut down.
Residents from as far away as four blocks from the accident reported hearing an explosion at the substation about 5:30 p.m.
UP&L spokesman Wes Holmes said about 10,000 customers were without power for two hours after the incident.