A man electrocuted beside a power pole last year was trying to remove copper wire that extended to the top of the pole, a coroner has concluded.
Steven Ray Brodie Shepel died four days after the incident on the South Slopes of Kelowna. The 35-year-old had severe burns and never recovered, said Coroner Andrew Cave in his report.
Shepel and a 44-year-old friend were cycling in Myra-Bellevue Park on April 26, 2012, as a steady drizzle fell. He was trying to remove the uninsulated four-gauge ground wire, which was buried in the earth and fastened along the length of the pole with large staples.
A row of wooden poles support high-voltage transmission lines along the edge of the park. Shepel apparently dug up the wire and tried to whip the copper wire away from the pole so it dislodged each staple in ascending order.
At one point, the wire contacted the electrical field of the 138,000-volt power lines. The current travelled to Shepel's hand, through his body and exited from his ankle, electrocuting him.
His friend cycled to nearby houses on Luxmoore Road for help and convinced a resident to call 911. The resident later checked on Shepel as he lay on the ground, breathing but barely conscious.
Paramedics said Shepel was in pain but able to identify himself. They took him to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment of his electrical burns.
He was later air-lifted to Vancouver General Hospital, where he died in intensive care April 30.
Police later found someone had recently cut portions of the ground wires on several poles along the hydro lines, which transmit up to 230,000 volts. Officers discovered coils of copper wire piled nearby, leading to suspicion that the men were planning to steal the valuable metal.
Copper thefts cost Fortis BC and BC Hydro hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses last year. Professional thieves have even dressed as utility workers to avoid detection.
Tampering with ground wire also forces the utilities to spend thousands more on repairs and checking their inventory to ensure the ground wires aren't compromised.
The coroner ruled Shepel's death as accidental and made no recommendations.