11,000 volt zap for copper wire theft suspect

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A man suspected of trying to steal copper wiring is in serious condition in hospital after he was nearly electrocuted while cutting live power lines.

The near fatal incident comes only 11 days after Northpower officials warned desperate thieves they were putting themselves at risk by stealing copper from live power lines on Northpower's network.

The injured 18-year-old from Ruawai was collected from a rural property on Chadwick Rd, near Tinopai, by a policeman who had been alerted to the incident about 3pm on Friday.

The teenager was then transferred to a St John ambulance on Tinopai Rd and taken to a sports field near Maungaturoto, where volunteer firefighters helped load him into the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter. He had suffered a serious burn on his right arm

He was flown to Whangarei Hospital and on Sunday transferred to Middlemore Hospital, where patients with serious burns can be treated.

Northpower public affairs manager Steve Macmillan confirmed a live 400 volt line was cut, which caused the tripping of the 11,000 volt line to Tinopai.

A transformer pole on a roadside reserve had been climbed and the wires cut. It is believed the man suffered chest and spinal fractures when he fell from the pole.

St John officials said there was an entry and exit wound on the man's arm.

"Whoever was responsible is extremely lucky to be alive as 400 volts is easily enough to kill a person - let alone 11,000 volts," Mr Macmillan said.

"This kind of incident is exactly why we put out a safety warning a couple of weeks back. We can't stress enough what a dangerous activity playing with powerlines is."

He warned people to stay away from live lines and treat all powerlines as live at all times - even if they were down. "It's common sense," he said.

Dargaville police Detective Sergeant Jonathan Tier said police were investigating the alleged attempted theft of copper wiring. No charges had been laid yet.

Northpower is appealing to scrap metal dealers to inform police if they are suspicious of people offering copper for sale.

Over the past few weeks copper has been stolen from Whananaki, Helena Bay, Ngunguru and Port Rd.

Every year Northpower representatives speak to dozens of community groups and schools throughout Kaipara and Whangarei to educate people on safety around electricity.

"It is a big investment and it is done to keep people safe in our community because the last thing we want is people being injured or killed on our network."

- Northern Advocate

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