Investigator - Boy's death blamed on lamppost

Thursday, June 26, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A 9-year-old boy was electrocuted on a downtown bridge because a lamppost was not grounded and its wires were not properly insulated, investigators said Wednesday.

Willie Wagner had been walking home from a museum with a friend May 22 when he squeezed between the light pole and a chain-link fence.

When he touched both, the voltage jumped from the pole through his body to the fence, said John Loud, an investigator hired by the city.

Loud found that insulation on a 480-volt wire had not been properly wrapped with electrical tape. That caused the base of the lamppost to become charged. If the pole had been properly grounded, a fuse would have blown, cutting the power to the pole.

In the days after the accident, the exact origin of the current was a mystery. City workers were unable to find the source of the jolt.

Columbus utilities spokesman Greg Davies said the city believes Loud is correct.

The deteriorating bridge had been slated for demolition. The fence had been erected to keep people away from the crumbling railing.

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