Electrocution leads to investigation of Pennsylvania power lines

In June 2009, a Pennsylvania woman died days after she was struck by a power line that fell into her yard. Carrie Goretzka stepped outside to call 911 about the line and was shocked and burned by a live electrical wire that fell from trees. Rescue workers couldn’t help her until a utility crew came to cut off the power.

Goretzka’s family filed a lawsuit against the utility company, West Penn Power, and its related companies. It contends the companies are liable for Goretzka’s death because utility workers failed to properly maintain the wires that fell near her home.

The family’s attorney, Shanin Specter, says the power line failed at a point where it was spliced. He says workers using a splice device should have used a wire brush to clean oxides from the wires. Otherwise overheating will cause the splice to fail.

According to Specter, several utility workers said in sworn depositions that they were trained to clean the spliced lines with knives or pliers. Specter says that isn’t enough to prevent rust from building up and causing the lines to overheat.

Specter is now calling on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to investigate how workers were told to clean spliced power lines. He fears the lines were mishandled throughout the Irwin area, a community 25 miles east of Pittsburgh. He says it’s a public safety issue that should be remedied.

A Commission spokesperson said the matter has been referred to its Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, which can take a statewide look at the problem.

Contact a personal injury attorney in your area.