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BPU says it was swamped with calls on night man was electrocuted

Updated: 2013-07-18T05:18:54Z

By GLENN E. RICE

The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities issued a statement Wednesday explaining why it took more than 11 hours to respond to a downed power line at Rosedale Park during a June 15 storm.

That fallen line electrocuted Nicholas Moeder, 27, of Shawnee early June 16 as he played disc golf in the dark with a friend. The utility said Wednesday that it received 553 service calls that evening, including three that reported the downed wire in Rosedale Park.

“We had 30 downed lines and outages all over the city, so we were getting to them as soon as we could,” said BPU spokesman David Mehlhaff. “We had people working around the clock for 36 hours.”

The storm produced 70-mph winds and caused widespread outages that left 2,277 customers without electric service, the utility said in a statement. Mehlhaff said there was no way to know immediately the severity of the downed line at Rosedale Park.

The BPU received the initial call about the downed line from a 911 dispatcher just after 4 p.m. on June 15.

A volunteer serving at a disc golf tournament at Rosedale Park that day has said he called 911 at 4 p.m. The tournament’s director, after discovering later in the day that the downed power line had not been addressed, said he attempted to call BPU three times after 10 p.m. and eventually left a voice message.

By then, BPU crews had already begun working to restore power to households and repair damaged infrastructure, which included broken poles and 30 downed lines, Mehlhaff said Wednesday.

Crews responded to the downed line at Rosedale Park at 3:29 a.m. the following morning.

“We get a lot people who will call 911 to report a downed line,” he said. “You can second guess it, but what are you leaving behind, if you go to this? What happens to the next one?”

The utility said in its statement that it is speaking with public safety officials on ways to improve coordination between emergency responders and their work crews.

“It is a tragedy and it is something that we wish that it didn’t happen,” Mehlhaff said. “We’ll try to do what we can so that it never happens again.”

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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