Just after noon Monday, an out-of-town worker contracted by the City of Durant to do work on the roof of City Hall was severely electrically burned when the bucket lift he was using to access the roof touched a power line.
The man’s shoulder and hand suffered third-degree burns with possible internal injuries.
The man is currently in serious condition after he was flown to an Oklahoma City hospital for treatment as well as tests because his body took a massive amount of electricity.
Monday afternoon, power was cut at Durant City Hall and a portion of the surrounding area which concerned everyone in the area.
For a short time the man was stranded between power lines, scared and disoriented.
The man is from Bosnia working in the United States.
Durant City Manager Tim Rundel said, “One of the crew members came running into our office here saying someone was electrocuted. We instantly ran outside and we found the man obviously in a lot of pain. Marty Cook and myself were one of the first ones to get to the scene.
Cook is with the Community Development Department and with his years of experience at the City, it was fortunate he was there for the emergency, Rundel said.
Rundel continued, “I grabbed Marty because I thought there many be a need to shut the power off. We didn’t know inside whether he could still be receiving the electrocution. We then found out that he was not engaged directly with electrical wires but that his bucket lift was dangerously close, between two sets of high voltage electrical wires.”
The electrical jolt the man received when his shoulder touched the live electric wire and his being two stories up in the air, made communication with the man difficult.
Rundel said upon his arrival to the man behind City Hall, “He was wobbly and disoriented and we told him to sit down. We thought he might fall out of the bucket. You could see the fear in his eyes. There was a translation problem, also.”
The man is from Bosnia and his English isn’t good which made an already bad situation even worse.
Rundel said a fellow worker was sent who could communicate with the man.
He said he told the worker to tell the man to sit down in the bucket.
Rundel said, “The man was lightheaded and we had to keep talking to him to keep him awake.”
The bucket was two stories in the air when this took place.
Rundel then made the decision to contact OG&E to cut power.
“They tripped the breaker down the street from City Hall. Then we could get the rescue crew safely to the man and get him rescued.”
Rundel said he knew it inconvenienced several businesses at the noon hour on a Monday.
He said, “We had someone’s life in the balance. I knew we might have someone lose a Word document, but we had to do it to save the man’s life.”
He said he knew business owners would understand when they knew what happened and would be happy he survived.
Many in Durant saw the first responders blocking the street on the west side of City Hall between there and the Bryan County Courthouse.
It’s not known at this time whether the man was using all OSHA workplace safety precautions when using the lift bucket. It was reported at the scene that the bucket can be controlled by the person inside the bucket, but there were no other workers nearby helping the man access the roof using the unit. It’s not expected the city is liable for the accident because the worker was contracted and they were using their equipment.
The man was witnessed awake at the scene, but he was not talking to firemen. It’s not known if it’s because of the language barrier or if the man had injuries which made communication impossible.
Humberto Vasquez, maintenance worker at the Bryan County Courthouse, was working across the street when he was alerted to someone yelling for help.
Vasquez said, “I was working across the street when I saw the bucket truck and heard the man yelling ‘“help!”’
Vasquez said he could see the burns on the man’s shoulder and tried to calm him down until he could be rescued.
The City Manager credits first responders with saving the man’s life.
Rundel said, “He was still in a lot of pain. We couldn’t see what internal damage may have been done. We hope and pray he’ll recover fully from this. It was one of those things that could have been much worse.”
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or firstname.lastname@example.org