Mike Holt Enterprises Electrical News Source

Town Street Bridge Electrocution

Electrical safety is our key concern and I'm always looking out for information that will help keep the industry safe. I wanted to pass along this information about an electrocution in Columbus Ohio in 2003. I hope you find it has value.

On May 22, 2003, Willie Wagner, a nine-year-old boy, was electrocuted in the vicinity of the northwest light post and adjacent chain-link fence on the Town Street Bridge in Columbus Ohio. Its stone railing was deteriorating, so a chain-link fence was put up at the edge of the pedestrian sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. The streetlights were between the fence and the stone railing at the edge of the bridge. Willie was in the company of another boy and that boy's father at the time of the incident. The two boys had left the sidewalk and had crawled underneath the fence to gain access to the space between the chain-link fence and the bridge railing. Though no one witnessed the accident, the position of Willie's body indicates that he was electrocuted as he moved through the small gap between the fence and the northwest light post.

After the electrocution, the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities, inspected every circuit in in the city, some of which were found to require routine maintenance and repairs. 1

1 Teter, Seth (June 23, 2003) Uninsulated Wire Caused Boy’s Death, retrieved February 25, 2020 from The Lantern: www.thelantern.com/2003/06/uninsulated-wire-caused-boys-death/.

This is a very detailed report on this incident into the cause.

This report was submitted by Tom Baker, Code Forum Moderator.

Click here or on the image to read and download the paper. Please feel free to post your comments.

  • Does any one know if this fence was properly grounded? Being that most fences of this type only have loose secttion where they just push in connections I would hope that they were grounded every hunderd feet. It is a tragedy any time a person is electrocuted but extra sad when this happens to a child. Thanks Mike for this articls.

    Tom Garbo  March 17 2020, 1:55 pm EDT
    Reply to this comment
  • Reply from: Mike Holt   March 17 2020, 3:15 pm EDT
    How do you ground a fence, it's already in the ground. Please watch this video before you reply. https://www.youtube.com/embed/mpgAVE4UwFwv
    Reply to Mike Holt

  • What's really sad is that most every decent electrician in the city knew why it happened and the city spent hundreds of thousands in taxpayers money figuring it out. Columbus is known for hiring substandard minority companies in an effort to promote companies that haven't yet earned these jobs with quality experiences.

    JAMES HARTLEY  March 17 2020, 1:15 am EDT
    Reply to this comment

  • This is not the first time this has happened-not just to people but to pets, as well. Maybe there should be a code requirement to prevent the use of 480v. in light=pole bases. A limitation of voltage to 120 v. would seem to be safer, but I can understand where 480 would be desired due to distance, voltage drop, etc. Isn't it a legal requirement that this report be signed/sealed by an electrical PE?

    Jim Stroke PE  March 17 2020, 12:29 am EDT
    Reply to this comment
  • Reply from: Ed   April 10 2020, 4:05 pm EDT
    120V across vital organs is just as lethal as 480V. GFCI protection on this circuit would have been more likely to prevent the tragedy. Unfortunately the GFCI device would probably have been declared "faulty" and removed when it refused to stay set with this wiring connected.

    An engineered plan probably exists, but that doesn't fix faulty installation and/or maintenance.
    Reply to Ed

Get notified when new comments are posted here
* Your Email:
Add Your Comments to this Newsletter
* Your Name:
   Your name will appear under your comments.

* Your Email:
   Your email address is not displayed.
* Comments:

Email Notification Options:
Notify me when a reply is posted to this comment
Notify me whenever a comment is posted to this newsletter