Wilmore backhoe driver faces close call with live wires

Published 5:07 pm Thursday, June 29, 2017

A backhoe driver in Wilmore faced a dangerous situation with live power lines last week, but came out unscathed thanks to previous training.
A city employee was working on a water main replacement project on Acres Drive in Wilmore about three blocks away from where the incident occurred. Because there was not enough room on Acres Drive to store all the rock that they were using for the project, some rock was being stored near Sims Ball Park and Playgrounds located on Pleasantview Street.
The employee was driving the backhoe with an empty bucket down Pleasantview Street when the backhoe began to “see-saw,” meaning it became unbalanced and began rotating back and forth.
“Ultimately, to eliminate that, you’ve got to let the backhoe get the balance again, and you usually do that by just by slowing down,” said the Director of Wilmore Utilities and Public Works David Carlstedt.
As the driver of the backhoe began to slow down, the vehicle veered hard to the right and struck a Kentucky Utilities utility pole with a transformer on it, causing the pole — along with the live wires carrying 7,200 volts of electricity — to fall across the backhoe.
Some may have panicked and tried to leave the backhoe, but thanks to training and sound advice from his foreman, the city employee did not. He sat in the construction vehicle for almost two hours waiting for the power lines to be turned off by KU.
The KU service technician took around an hour and 45 minutes to arrive on the scene because he was not informed a person was in the backhoe.
“They said that there were power lines down on a backhoe, but they didn’t tell him that there was a guy still in the backhoe,” Carlstedt said. “He got there reasonably quick, within a couple of hours, but he didn’t know that there was a human being waiting on him in what could have been a pretty dangerous situation.”
Though he was shaken up, the city employee was able to step off the backhoe unharmed after the live wires were disconnected.
The power was not restored until around 9 p.m. that night, leaving eight homes without power for around 12 hours.
Carlstedt said anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar situation should stay in the vehicle and wait for emergency services to arrive.
“When you’re on the four rubber tires, it’s insulating you from being shocked,” Carlstedt said.

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