Sunday, 6 June 2010

Window Cleaners Electrocuted in California

Two men suffered burns over more than 95 percent of their body Saturday following a freak workplace accident in the East Bay. The men were both electrocuted while washing windows in Orinda. They were in a cherry picker about 30 feet in the air when they hit some high-voltage wires. Several people at a nearby farmer's market say they saw an explosion and watched helplessly as the men and the bucket they were in burned. The men were unconscious, so people started yelling in an attempt to rouse them. "Finally, the one gentleman did wake up, and in his state of shock, was able to take his pants off and put the other gentleman, the fire on him, out," witness Janice Faust told ABC7. "But, the cage was still burning. It seemed like forever before help came, and then of course they weren't able to go up because I guess the wires were live. We weren't thinking of that we were just watching the suffering." Some witnesses were very critical of how long it took firefighters to do something, but firefighters say they could not reach out to the men until PG&E arrived and confirmed the power was out. Otherwise, firefighters could have died while trying to make the rescue. PG&E arrived 20 minutes after the call came in. Some wondered why fire fighters did not even hose down the victims, but officials point out that water is a conductor of electricity. The men were taken by helicopter to a hospital and were in critical condition Saturday evening.

Two men were hospitalized Saturday morning after they came into contact with high voltage wires while washing windows in Orinda. The jolt was so intense it set one of the men on fire and all of it happened in front of a dozen horrified onlookers who were at a nearby farmer’s market. Officials said the men were washing the windows of a business complex when their cherry picker hit a 150,000-volt power line. “One of the guys, the left side of the basket, was on fire. And then the other guy I saw him slump over. I thought he was dead at that point,” said Patricia Broman, who witnessed the accident. It was approximately 35 minutes before emergency personnel could get the two men to the ground, according Lt. Eric Navarro of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. Fire officials admitted afterwards that they took a while to get a ladder truck to help the two men because it had to come from across town and then they had to deal with the downed power lines. “We have to treat everything as live until that point, until we know for a fact and get confirmation from PG&E that the line is shut off. If not, then we start killing firefighters while we attempt a rescue,” said Batt. Chief Darrell Lee of the Moraga Orinda Fire District. Some of the shoppers on hand were outraged by the response of emergency personnel and PG&E. “Those guys were up there burning, in a state of shock for close to an hour before they got a ladder to them and pulled them down,” said Russell Abraham. Orinda City Council Woman Sue Severson witnessed the accident and was concerned about any delay caused by the cell phone 911 calls going first to CHP headquarters in Vallejo. “It was very disconcerting for the citizens and obviously like I said traumatic that there was a lag in response time,” said Severson. Cal-OSHA was investigating the incident Saturday afternoon. Orinda's Police Chief told KTVU that the incident was clearly an OSHA violation because the window-washers were far too close to the power lines.

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