Power line kills worker, hurts another
01/15/02, By BILL BRAY, The Express-Times
HIGH BRIDGE - A siding installer was electrocuted and another seriously injured Monday morning when the scaffold they were assembling touched a 7,200-volt power line. The two workers were erecting a set of pump jacks at 9:57 a.m. on the side of a two-story home at Union Avenue and Hart Street when one of the metal posts touched the power lines. Walter Cabrerra of Irvington, N.J., suffered electrical burns and internal injuries. He was taken to Hunterdon Medical Center then flown to the burn center at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, N.J., where he was listed in critical condition late Monday. Police were withholding the name of the dead man late Monday pending notification of his family. Nicholas Susalis, chief detective for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, said the death is being ruled accidental. He added that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and GPU Energy also are conducting investigations. Susalis said the man died at the scene but was taken to Hunterdon Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Both worked for Luis A. Chavez Construction of Bellville, N.J. Calls to Chavez’s home were not returned. At the home where the men had been working, a set of pump jacks remained in place. The jacks use two aluminum poles, each around 40 feet long, two jacks and an aluminum ladder. The poles are threaded through the jacks, stand up on end and anchor to the top to the building. The ladder then spans the space between the poles and fastens to the jacks. The system allows workers to stand on the platform created by the ladder and use the jacks to adjust the platform’s height. Susalis said both men were on the ground and touching the system when the wire was struck.
New off-white siding covered half of the Victorian home. The contractor’s equipment was piled in the yard and some blue insulation board was all that indicated work had begun on the side where the electrocution occurred. A man who identified himself as the owner’s son said his mother did not want to comment. He said he was there to see what happened. Mike Yarnell, assistant area director for OSHA’s Avenel office, said its investigation is ongoing and had few details. He said if the contractor violated federal safety guidelines he could face a $5,000 fine. "If there was a criminal act we would contact the Justice Department," Yarnell said. He did not know if any regulations were broken but said there are rules governing the use of scaffolds around power lines. Yarnell said electrocution from accidental contact is common in New Jersey but not this way. More often, workers using back hoes or cranes run into lines. On average, one to two workers per year die this way in New Jersey, Yarnell said. Ron Morano, spokesman for GPU, said he had few details on the incident. He said power lines in the area are about 30 feet in the air. There is a telephone pole on the corner with power lines running along both the side and front of the home.

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