HOWLAND, Maine — A federal workplace safety agency is investigating why a Cianbro Corp. bucket truck’s arm was extended enough to knock a power line onto a passing car on Coffin Street and cause 1,100 utility customers to lose electricity for several hours on Wednesday, officials said Thursday.
The woman driving the car might have been electrocuted had she ventured from the sedan once the line fell on it, said Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for Bangor Hydro Electric Co. The vehicle’s sole occupant, the woman was effectively trapped in the car for about an hour, Faloon said.
“It can be deadly and fortunately nothing happened to her,” Faloon said Thursday. “I am sure it was very frightening to her at the time but she did the right thing by staying put.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Cianbro Corp. safety workers are investigating the incident, which occurred at a road and bridge construction project near the Piscataquis River on Wednesday, company spokesman Alan Grover said. No injuries were reported.
The accident occurred at about 10:15 a.m. All but 90 of the 1,100 customers in the Howland and Enfield area had service restored within three or four hours, Faloon said. The remaining 90 customers were back online by about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Town Manager Jane Jones complimented Cianbro and Maine Department of Transportation workers and emergency responders for quickly working to free the woman, repair the damage, get traffic moving again and restore electricity. Cianbro and MDOT are building a new bridge across the river and a redesigned roadway that includes a traffic circle. The accident occurred on the east side of the river.
Incidents involving live electrical wires are not uncommon. A York man was electrocuted on Aug. 8 in York when he touched a dump truck that was touching electrical wires. Central Maine Power turned off the power line after emergency workers contacted them.
State police summoned a crane operator for operating a vehicle beyond structural height in November 2011 when he failed to lower the basket of the self-contained crane far enough to avoid utility wires on Route 161 in St. John Plantation.
The basket on the crane caught and snapped telephone and electric wires strung across the road as the man drove past, state police said.
Anyone trapped in a vehicle touching a live electrical wire should remain inside the vehicle until power to the line is turned off, unless the vehicle is burning, Faloon said. Electricity generally seeks the shortest route to ground and a person touching the ground and an electrified surface can complete that circuit with fatal results.
If the vehicle is ablaze, people should escape it by jumping from it entirely, leaving nothing of themselves touching the vehicle when they hit the ground, Faloon said.