Cutting through power lines to make a few bucks is a risky racket (and anti-social, too)

If you are going to risk your life, would another line of business be more rewarding?


The tosser who was hospitalised after (allegedly) cutting through copper wire and finding it carried a few thousand volts of live electricity deserves our scorn on several counts.

Most obviously, he is remarkably stupid.

If the electricity has fried his reproductive bits and made him incapable of siring a next generation of feeble-minded tossers, well and good.

Moreover, it looks like he has a cavalier disregard for other people’s property. Yes, we know we must apply the word “alleged” in respect of this observation. So let’s throw in the word “alleged”.

In this case our alleged thief has compounded his obvious defects in the IQ department by stealing stuff (allegedly) which won’t fetch all that much at the scrap dealers – $5 to $50, a bloke from the power company reckons.

If you are going to risk your neck trying to steal something, then you might as well go for broke and make the booty worthwhile.

In this case, our not-so-bright lad is in a serious condition in hospital after receiving an electric shock while allegedly trying to steal the copper wire.

A report at Stuff (here) says –

The Ruawai teenager was found at a rural property on Chadwick Rd, near Tinopai, 60km south of Dargaville, after cutting through a 400-volt line, tripping an 11,000-volt line and falling from a transformer pole on Friday about 3pm.

He was flown to Whangarei Hospital and on Sunday was transferred to Middlemore Hospital.

The incident happened nearly three weeks after Northpower warned people about the dangers of copper theft.

It seems there there has been a spate of wire thefts in the past few weeks.

It’s a hazardous way of earning a few bucks.

According to a TV3 report (here), the power company says thieves stealing copper wire from power lines should take heed of the near electrocution of the young man hit with 11,000 volts.

Northpower has had lines damaged seven times in the past month.

It was only a matter of time before someone got hurt.

It was down a remote road in Northland that an 18-year-old man received a massive electric shock.

He allegedly cut a 400-volt line, which tripped an 11,000-volt arc.

“It’ll burn the skin under your clothes and any nylon clothes you’re wearing will melt and aggravate the burns,” says Graham Dawson, general manager of Northpower.

“It was incredibly dangerous. He was lucky he wasn’t killed.”

Somehow the bloke drove himself from Tinopai part-way to Maungaturoto, where he came across a police officer who called for help.

“He had a severe burn to his arm that was an entry and exit wound from the high voltage,” says St John district operations manager Tony Devanney. “He was thrown about 10m, so he had severe chest injuries.”

The man is now stable after being flown to hospital by the Northpower-sponsored rescue helicopter – saved by the same company he was allegedly stealing from.

Police are investigating the theft. Sorry, alleged theft.

“It’s not isolated,” says Whangarei-Kaipara area commander Paul Dimery. “Unfortunately it’s quite prevalent throughout New Zealand, not just in Northland. It’s regarded as easy money and the consequences are quite dire.”

Police point out, of course, that if no one bought the wire, it would not not be stolen.

But the Scrap Metal Recycling Association says its certified dealers are not to blame. They require photo identification and proof of address for every sale.

One dealer 3 News spoke to says it will notify police if it thinks the copper is suspicious.

In the Stuff report, Northpower spokesman Steve Macmillan says the incident yesterday was the first time he had heard of someone trying to cut live wire.

People usually steal earth wires that run down the poles, taking two or three metres of copper wire at a time.

The company would have to physically drive around every pole across the network to check if any were missing, he said.

“We just don’t know whether more of these earth wires have been taken. That’s why we are so concerned about the safety element.”

Probably it won’t register with other thieves (and/or alleged thieves) but Macmillan told Stuff every time someone takes an earth wire, there is a potential for someone to get hurt or killed.

“The fault current can then travel down the earth wires into a house. What that means is that your top bench, your pot can be live and you could get a shock. There is a major danger here.”

Macmillan said the company could not do anything to stop it.

Safety campaigns run year round and the company has a dedicated person spreading the message of safety.

“Apart from that, we do invest a bit of time and money into it, we can’t really do much more.

“It really comes down people being sensible out there and not putting themselves and others at risk.”

But these warnings obviously fall on deaf ears among the pilfering classes.

The Northern Advocate says (here) the near fatal incident comes only 11 days after Northpower officials warned desperate thieves of the risks in stealing copper from live power lines.

This report tells us a bit more about the incident.

Northpower public affairs manager Steve Macmillan confirmed a live 400 volt line was cut, which caused the tripping of the 11,000 volt line to Tinopai.

A transformer pole on a roadside reserve had been climbed and the wires cut. It is believed the man suffered chest and spinal fractures when he fell from the pole.

Macmillan points out that 400 volts are enough to kill a person, let alone 11,000.

Maybe the company should stop spending big bucks on its safety campaign.

Just let the thieves – oops, alleged thieves – find out the hard way. And if a few of them fry, good riddance.

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