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Woman in Puna killed while trying to flee downed power lines

A woman in Pahoa was killed Tuesday evening after being electrocuted by a downed power line.

According to a the Hawaii Police Department, a vehicle fire was reported at 8:41 p.m. Tuesday, caused by downed power lines near the intersection of Oopu Street and Kahakai Boulevard in Hawaiian Shores subdivision.

Upon responding to the scene, an officer determined that a man and a woman were seated in a parked vehicle on Oopu Street when a tree limb fell onto nearby power lines, causing the energized lines to fall and contact the vehicle’s roof and surrounding foliage.

With the downed lines arcing on the vehicle’s roof, the 58-year-old man escaped the vehicle by climbing out of a previously removed tailgate window. When the 59-year-old woman attempted to follow, she came into contact with a nearby galvanized gate while still touching the vehicle, electrocuting her.

The man attempted to extricate the woman but was thrown to the ground by the electric shock.

According to a Hawaii County Fire Department incident report, the police officer arrived on scene first to discover the woman dead and “actively on fire outside of the car which was on fire.”

Workers from Hawaiian Electric cut the power at 8:57 p.m., allowing fire department responders to extinguish the fire and cover the woman. Electrical service was restored to about 1,700 customers by 9:50 p.m., according to Hawaiian Electric.

The woman was transported to Hilo Medical Center, where she was officially pronounced dead. The man was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Residents are advised to stay at least 30 feet or more from downed power lines. Someone inside a car that a power line has fallen upon should remain inside the car if possible, but if that is not possible, should jump free of the car so that the body is completely clear of the vehicle before touching the ground, according to Hawaiian Electric.

Touching the ground or grounded equipment while also touching equipment in contact with the power line increases the risk of electrical shock.

Tuesday’s incident has been classified as a public accident and is being investigated by the Area I Criminal Investigation Section. A coroner’s inquest investigation has been initiated, and an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.

The woman’s identity has been withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Any witnesses to the incident or anyone with any further information about the incident is asked to contact Lieutenant Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2252 or via email at rio.amon-wilkins@Hawaiicounty.gov or call the police department’s nonemergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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