Four men were hospitalized, three of them still in critical condition, on Thursday morning after suffering severe electrical burns in a bizarre accident Wednesday afternoon that one police officer said should have had only one victim.
Steven Blake, 21, Provo, was in critical and unstable condition, and Johnny Wakamatsu, 70, Pleasant Grove, and David Connelly, 45, Salt Lake City, were in critical but stable condition after being treated for third-degree electrical burns Wednesday night at University Hospital in Salt Lake City.A fourth victim, Rusty Schweppe, 44, Orem, was treated at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and released.
Provo police say trouble began while Skywriter Electric Signs Inc. employees Wakamatsu and Schweppe were installing a sign at 225 W. 2230 North. While Wakamatsu was placing equipment in a truck at about 3:30 p.m., police said, the truck's boom-type ladder, operated by Schweppe, made contact with a 7,200-volt power line.
Wakamatsu suffered an electrical shock that knocked him to the ground, and when Schweppe attempted to pull the victim away from the truck, he too was shocked.
Police said Connelly, a passer-by who tried to help the two men after noticing what had happened, also fell victim to electrical shock when he ventured too close to the truck, which was still grounded to the power line.
Anyone attempting to assist a person injured by electrical shock must be sure first that the electrical current has been cut off, or else the Good Samaritan also will fall victim.
A second passer-by, Blake, pulled Wakamatsu and Schweppe to safety, but when he attempted to help Connelly, he also came in contact with the truck.
Police and fire officials were unable to pry Blake from the truck until electricity to the power line was cut off, a police spokeswoman said.
"I've got a very frustrated officer saying there should be just one victim, not four," said one police dispatcher. She said that when the initial accident call was reported to police, officers heading to the scene expected to find only one victim. But by the time they arrived a few minutes later, they found four victims.
Traffic through the area was temporarily rerouted while paramedics treated and prepared to transport the victims.