Local utilities urge caution after three killed by downed power line

By on Friday, January 19th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

NORTHEAST OREGON — Officials and utilities across Oregon and in eastern Oregon are sounding the alarm about safety around downed power lines.

This comes after a tragic incident where three people were killed after being electrocuted by a live power line in Portland.

Authorities say during this week’s winter storm, a branch fell onto a live wire, which then fell onto a Ford Expedition in a Northeast Portland neighborhood.  Two adults, one teen, and a 2-year-old were inside the SUV at the time.

When they tried to get out of the car, witnesses say one person was on fire and the group was electrocuted – killing the two adults and the teenager. Fire crews confirmed the three killed were all from the same family and that the toddler survived and was taken in by a community member until emergency crews responded to offer medical attention.The power company eventually arrived and de-energized the downed power line.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) said what may have happened is that when their feet touched the ground, their bodies were still touching the car, and became part of the active electrical circuit.

So, what should you do when you come across a downed power line?

Brad Bowlin from Idaho Power said to treat all lines as if they are live.

“We never touch it until it’s isolated and grounded,” Bowlin said. “If you think about electricity, it’s like lightning. It’s trying to find the best path to the ground. So, once you make contact, it’s going to find that path through you. It’s tragic, it’s awful, and our hearts go out to the families affected by that situation. 

Idaho Power, which serve parts of eastern Oregon, also offers these safety tips: 

General Safety Measures

  • Assume any downed power line is energized. Stay at least 100 feet back, keep others away and contact your local utility immediately.
  • Never touch a downed line or use any object to move a downed power line.
  • Never move tree limbs or other objects near or touching a downed line.
  • If someone touches a downed power line, do not touch or try to rescue them. You risk becoming a victim yourself. Call 911 immediately.

If a downed power line falls on your vehicle:

  • Stay inside the vehicle until help arrives.
  • Warn others not to touch the vehicle and ask them to call for help.
  • If you must leave the vehicle because of a fire or other life-threatening situation, jump out and as far away as possible with both feet landing on the ground at the same time. Keeping your feet together, shuffle away from the scene at least 100 feet. DO NOT touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.