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BPU news conferenceDavid Mehlhaff, left, Board of Public Utilities spokesman, and Bill Johnson, BPU manager of electric operations, answered questions about a fatal accident in Rosedale Park at today's news conference. (Staff photo)
BPU news conference
A downed power line at Rosedale Park in Kansas City, Kan., went without repairs for 11 hours, from a report at 4:07 p.m. Saturday, June 15, until after a fatal accident at 3:32 a.m. Sunday, June 16, Board of Public Utilities officials confirmed today.
BPU officials expressed their concern for the family of the accident victim at today's news conference.
Nicholas Moeder of Shawnee, Kan., died in the accident about 3:32 a.m. Sunday in Rosedale Park, after he became entangled in a downed power line. He was in the park to play disc golf with a friend, according to an earlier statement by law enforcement authorities.
The park was closed to the public at the time of the accident, said Lt. Kelli Bailiff of the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department, in answer to a question today. The parks here close at midnight.
David Mehlhaff, spokesman for the BPU, said the area was experiencing a storm including 60 to 70 mph winds on Saturday afternoon, followed by heavy rain.
The BPU is now investigating internally the details and circumstances leading up to the accident, including the 911 call that was received and how the calls were handled, BPU officials said.
“We take this incident very seriously,” said Bill Johnson, BPU manager of electrical operations, at a news conference today. “Every call we receive is important.”
Both Johnson and Mehlhaff expressed their concern about the accident and Johnson expressed an intention to make sure this sort of accident does not happen again. Policies are under review.
“The safety of our citizens is our top priority,” he said, adding that the safety of employees also is a top priority. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family.”
Although the BPU has not yet completed its investigation and is still evaluating the information it is gathering, Johnson said the initial call was placed to 911. Then the call was transferred to the BPU.
Johnson said the BPU was staffed for a normal weekend, and when the storm hit, extra crews were called in to assist. About 2,300 customers were without power. He said the crews worked around the clock.
The BPU had more than five instances of downed power lines from this storm, Johnson said. He said that typically, the BPU starts working on the biggest outages first, the ones affecting the most customers. Once a crew starts working on one downed power line, they are often at that location for a long time, until the work is completed, he said.
“Downed lines are given high priority,” he said. The utility often has to respond to downed power lines on houses, fences and cars, he said. Johnson said not all power can be shut off remotely.
A question was asked about why a barrier was not put up around the downed power line, and that is one of the areas that is being looked into, according to authorities.
Lt. Bailiff said the investigation into the incident from the law enforcement actions is still ongoing. The dispatch center received only one 911 phone call about Rosedale Park’s downed power line and transferred the call to the BPU, said Capt. Robert Angell. The call was categorized as a utility call.