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Live wire kills 2 on West End

By Scott E. Williams, The Daily News

Published May 05, 2000 1:50 AM CDT

GALVESTON - An electrical worker and a passerby who tried to save him died Thursday after a falling power line electrocuted them. Workers at the scene blamed shoddy parts on nearby power poles for the deaths.

Wade Weston, 29, was laying fiberoptic cable in a ditch alongside San Luis Pass Road about a mile west of Jamaica Beach, when a power line came loose from a nearby pole and struck the cable he was handling, creating an electrical current that gave him a deadly jolt, according to witness accounts.

Galveston resident Robert Barnes, 46, was driving by the scene when he saw Weston's predicament and got out of his car in an apparent attempt to help him. When Barnes grabbed the cable, he fell victim to the charge as well.

"He was just trying to be a good Samaritan," said police Lt. Matt Stanich.

Police Thursday afternoon worked to clear traffic through the area while they investigated the incident, as Weston's co-workers either sat with their heads in their hands or stood and stared at the ditch where he suffered the fatal charge.

The workers were employed by a Houston company contracted to replace lines in the area for Time-Warner Communications. One of them said parts connecting Reliant Energy lines to poles were decrepit and corroded. The weakened condition of the part caused it to pop out in reaction to vibrations created by a worker putting in a new bolt for the cable company. The part coming loose, in turn, caused the wire to break free of the pole and fall, said Orien Bone.

"The bolts are old and rotted," Bone said. "We actually come across this quite often, and what they're doing by not replacing these parts is putting our lives in danger."

David Murphy, Reliant Energy's Galveston service area manager, said safety was a priority for the company, but he also said the number of facilities in the area made constant inspections difficult.

"There are a lot of poles and a lot of wire up there," he said. "We can't watch everything, but we do try to test our mechanical devices and do visual inspections on everything else that's out there."

Barnes and Weston were neither conscious nor breathing when emergency crews arrived.

An ambulance took both men to a University of Texas Medical Branch hospital, and medics tried to revive them with CPR as they traveled. Those efforts continued in the hospital's emergency room, but proved to be in vain, as Weston was pronounced dead at 4:07 p.m. Twelve minutes later, Barnes also was dead.

Murphy said his company would be conducting an internal investigation to determine what caused the wire to fall.

"What I saw when I got there today was the end result, not the cause, and we really won't know much else about the cause until we investigate further," he said. "The main thing, though, is that this was a very tragic accident. Words can't express how badly we feel for these men and their families."


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