Worker electrocuted, causes outage

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Workers with the Hooper Corporation and Austin Utilities investigate the site of an incident late Monday afternoon at the Austin Utilities and SMMPA North Utility Plant near Todd Park that sent one of Hooper's to the hospital and left nearly all of Austin without power for more than an hour. - Eric Johnson/

A 54-year-old contractor was electrocuted in an incident that knocked out power for about 75 percent of Austin shortly after 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Police Chief Brian Krueger said the man came into contact with a 69,000-volt breaker while doing electrical upgrades at the Austin Utilities and SMMPA (Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Association) North Utility Plant. The plant is near Todd Park, located in the 3500 block of 11th St. NE.

Krueger said the contractor was electrocuted and taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin. He was later taken in Mayo One to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for first-degree and second-degree burns covering his body.

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The contractor is from Ohio and works for Aline-EDS. He was contracted by Hooper Corp. to conduct maintenance and electrical upgrades at the North Utility Plant, according to Mark Nibaur, Austin Utilities general manager.

The power outage, lasting from 3:20 p.m. until about 4:30 p.m., threw Austin into a temporary frenzy. Austin police put up four-way stops in place of stoplights, and gas station pumps were cordoned off.

According to a Walmart employee, staff was instructed to move all refrigerated and frozen products to the main freezer to keep things cold for longer.

School district officials said power was out at Sumner Elementary, Banfield Elementary, Austin High School and Woodson Kindergarten Center.

The southeast side of town retained power for most of the outage, according to Nibaur. The extreme west side of town got power back around 4:15 p.m., with the rest of the town following about 20 minutes later.

The injured contractor’s name has not been released.