O&R contract workers found dead at brush fire site

WARWICK. Two men who worked for a private utility company contracted by Orange & Rockland died Monday in an apparent industrial accident, police said.

Aug 19 2019 | 09:16 AM

    Two men who worked for a private utility company contracted by Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc.,died in an apparent industrial accident Monday, police said.

    Warwick Police Lt. Thomas Maslanka said that the call came in about a possible brush fire off Continental Road around 10 a.m. and that Greenwood Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded.

    “When they got to the scene, they discovered a small brush fire and what appeared to be an industrial accident, involving two individuals who worked for a private utility company that was hired by Orange & Rockland to do routine maintenance on the power poles,” Maslanka said.

    O&R spokesperson Mike Donovan said that the two men were repairing a guy wire on a transmission tower pole when the wire, which is un-energized and helps support the pole, somehow became electrified.

    According to Maslanka, both men died of electrical shock and the investigation into the facts surrounding their deaths is ongoing.

    Greenwood Lake Fire Chief Mike Dunlop said that his department saw a large amount of black smoke coming from Mount Peter.

    Donovan said Orange & Rockland personnel saw the same thing and responded to the scene as well.

    “On investigation, we observed that there were wires down, and there were also two men down on the ground, unconscious and unresponsive,” Dunlop said.

    According to Donovan, the site the men were working at is in deep woods and they used an all-terrain vehicle to get to it.

    “That vehicle was close to them and was on fire when the firemen arrived,” he said. “The fire department put out the fire and O&R called the control center and had them de-energize the lines overhead so they could conduct an investigation.”

    De-energizing the lines knocked the power out for 14,000 O&R customers in Warwick, although 11,000 had power restored within a few minutes, Donovan said.

    “They just basically pulled the plug on that circuit,” he said.

    The small minority of 3,000 were without power for about an hour, Donovan said.

    Donovan said the incident is highly unusual.

    “I’ve been here 28 years and this is the first fatality that I can recall,” he said.

    Identifying information about the victims cannot be released at this time, Maslanka said, because the families still need to be notified.

    Donovan said that the men worked for E-J Electric, which is based in Wallingford, Connecticut.

    In addition to Greenwood Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Chester Fire Department, Warwick Ambulance, Greenwood Lake Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene, Maslanka said.