Electrical worker killed in St. Louis

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

About 4,000 people are pulling 16-hour shifts to restore power to the city.

ST. LOUIS -- An Ameren Corp. worker was killed Tuesday and another utility worker was injured in separate incidents while the men were trying to help restore power to the remaining 145,000 homes and businesses still without power in the St. Louis area.

Robert Tackett, 56, of St. Charles, Mo., was working in Ladue when he walked into brush where an energized line was partially hidden, the company said in a written statement. Tackett had worked for Ameren for 13 years.

"We are heartbroken that we have lost a valued employee and friend, who was both highly dedicated and experienced," said Thomas Voss, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ameren.

Also Tuesday, a contract worker employed by Kansas City-based Par Electric came into contact with an energized line while working in the Spanish Lake area of north St. Louis County, Ameren said. He was hospitalized and was expected to recover.

The two employees were part of a massive effort to restore power after two storms last week knocked out electricity to nearly 600,000 customers. About 3,000 utility workers from around the country along with about 1,000 Ameren workers are pulling 16-hour shifts as they repair damaged power lines.

Tackett's death was the fifth in the region that has been attributed to the storms or heat and the first death of an electrical worker.

Larry McBride, a groundskeeper at the Ladue home where Tackett was killed, said he met Tackett at the house around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The two walked along a fence line in the wooded backyard where power lines were down.

The sweeping backyard where McBride and Tackett walked resembles an enormous playground, with a skateboarding halfpipe, a life-sized dollhouse and a large cage with monkeys inside. McBride said the home belongs to William Busch, a relative of Anheuser-Busch Cos. president August Busch IV.

McBride said he asked Tackett if the electricity might be reconnected soon. The power lines behind the house run through a densely wooded area.

"He said he'd get a tree crew out here and clear up some things and it wouldn't be too long," McBride said.

McBride said he returned to the house and moments later saw smoke rising from the woods. He ran outside to find Tackett's lifeless body.

Ameren officials believe virtually all customers should have power by Wednesday.

Temperatures reached into the low 90s Tuesday, renewing concern for residents without air conditioning. Several shelters and cooling centers remain open around the region.

The first of the storms hit July 19, packing winds that reached 80 mph, knocking out power to nearly 600,000 Ameren customers. A second storm Friday knocked out power to 200,000 customers, including many whose power had just been restored.

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