Attorney charges Allegheny Energy’s failure led to death of woman by fallen power line

Allegheny Energy’s failure led to the death of a woman by a fallen power line in June 2009, attorney Shanin Specter charged in a letter-complaint to Pennsylvania regulators.

Specter, who represents the family of Carrie Goretzka, who was “repeatedly shocked” in her yard after a power line fell and struck her, also said Allegheny Energy violates its own safety procedures for employee training and power line installations, according to a Jan. 17 statement.

He has filed suit claiming Allegheny Energy, Allegheny Power and West Penn Power were negligent in the installation and maintenance of the power lines.

According to the filing with the state Public Utility Commission, on June 2, 2009, a 7,200-volt wire fell and came in contact with Goretzka in her yard, shocking her until Allegheny Power shut off the power. She died on June 5.

Specter’s letter to the PUC notes that Allegheny Energy linemen admit they routinely used knives to clean the lines before placing them into splices, instead of using wire brushes, contrary to Allegheny Energy’s written policies as well as the splice manufacturer’s written instructions, according to the statement.

Failure to properly clean the lines can cause overheating and eventually cause the line to fall, the statement added.

Specter said Allegheny Energy instructors testified that they mistakenly trained linemen that conductors could be cleaned with a knife or pliers as well as a wire brush, despite the manufacturer’s directions that only a wire brush be used to adequately remove oxides that can cause overheating.

“Allegheny Power’s failure to follow the proper installation instructions for the installation of automatic splices caused the death of Carrie Goretzka and may cause additional lines to fall and people to die,” Specter said in his filing with the PUC. “This must be remedied.”

According to the statement, Specter has called on the PUC to make Allegheny Energy retrain its linemen, perform safety inspections and correct poorly installed lines.

A spokesperson for West Penn Power told TransmissionHub Jan. 17, “We have sent our sympathies to the family of Carrie Goretzka but are not able to comment due to the pending litigation.”

A PUC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Jan. 17 that the PUC has referred the letter to its bureau of investigation and enforcement and at this time, it is under review.

The merger between Allegheny Energy and FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) was completed in February 2011. West Penn Power is one of FirstEnergy’s electric utility operating companies.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.