Utility worker feet away as semi pulls wire from burning utility pole

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CLEVELAND – A Cleveland Public Power worker was feet away from a utility line when a passing semi snapped the line, sending wires and a dangling portion of a burning utility pole flying.

The close call happened around 5:30 a.m. Friday along East 152nd Street, near Interstate 90.
The Illuminating Company, which owns the utility pole, said it first received a report that the pole was on fire around 4:30 a.m.

The Illuminating Company spokesperson Mark Durbin said workers from the utility de-energized the power line and determined it was too dangerous to make a repair until police closed I-90, which the line crossed. He said the company requested closure around 5 a.m.

“Our guys knew it was not safe, and they were waiting for that situation to be safe,” Durbin said.

Before the highway was closed, the top section of the pole burned through and snapped. It was left suspended in the air by its utility lines, which dangled close to highway traffic passing below.

Within minutes, a Cleveland Public Power crew arrived at the scene and a lineman in a bucket was lifted into the air near the dangling wires and pole.

He appeared to be preparing to cut the lines free when a semi traveling eastbound on the highway hooked the dangling lines, snapping them, and sending the lines and the burning portion of the pole flying.

The worker ducked into his bucket and was lowered to the ground.

A Cleveland police spokesperson said the highway was closed at 5:22 a.m. after coordination with the Cleveland Division of Fire. The Illuminating Company crews then repaired the pole and line.

Durbin said The Illuminating Company did not ask Cleveland Public Power for assistance.

“They, on their own, decided to go up and try to cut the wire and deal with the situation,” Durbin said. “We saw a situation that wasn't safe, and we were trying to make it safe for the people that were driving by and for our employees. CPP, maybe they saw it differently.”

No one was hurt.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Public Power said the utility’s crew was responding to reports of a hanging wire on I-90.

“We are grateful our employee was not injured as he attempted to remove the wire which was a potential threat to drivers travelling on I-90. It is standard practice for CPP to respond to a scene and finding a potential danger, work to rectify it to ensure the safety of the public. The safety of our employees is a top priority,” said CPP spokesperson Shelley Shockley in a statement provided to FOX 8 late Friday.

Shockley said the Department of Public Utilities Safety Office is reviewing the incident to determine what happened and ensure the safety of employees.

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