Trespass results in severe burns, driver in truck crash dies on Orcas

  • Tue Jun 17th, 2008 8:29pm
  • News

Tragedy on the weekend

By MARGIE DOYLE

Editor

Trespasser makes environmental statement

Orcas Island Fire Department’s Aid 21 and Engine 22 were called to the West Sound OPALCO sub-station at 10:32 p.m. on Saturday, March 15. A 26-year-old patient was

Gabriel Mondragon 29, an Orcas Island resident was found by the Fire Department’s Aid Unit 21 and Engine 22, inside OPALCO’s West Sound substation around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, March. 15.

He was treated for first-, second- and third-degree burns as a result of trespassing and then coming in contact with high voltage inside the sub-station enclosure. Mondragon was flown to Harborview Hospital in Seattle via AirLift Northwest with serious injuries.

Sheriff Bill Cumming reported that when deputies arrived, they found Mondragon lying inside the fence of the substation. He was lying on his back, with severe burns to the lower part of his body and hands. He was alert and able to talk and made statements at the time that he was protesting the death of the whale Luna and the depletion of the rain forest and he wanted people to pay attention to what he was saying: “Rich white people …caused the death of Luna and the destruction of the rain forest.”

Cumming state that apparently Mondragon had attempted to cut the power line with a saw blade attached to a metal pole, as is used for trimming tree limbs off the ground. He had attempted to cut the lines from outside he fence, but was unable to do so, and so went inside the fence. He had thick latex gloves on his hands, apparently to protect himself from the shock, Cumming said, “But he was immediately shocked.”

OPALCO’s General Manager Randy Cornelius said on March 16, “Right now, all we know is that [the incident] was a trespass and is being investigated. We don’t know what the individual was doing there and what his condition is currently. We do know that he made contact with 69,000 volts.”

On March 17, Cornelius said, “This tragic incident underlines the importance of public education about the dangers of power lines and electrical safety, I’m proud of how quickly and efficiently our linemen and emergency services responded; I’m grateful for the professionalism of the law enforcement and fire service personnel who responded and took control of the scene—and am thankful that no lives were lost. Our thoughts are with the family of the young man that was injured.”

OPALCO linemen re-secured the substation and have inspected and repaired the damage to the line. All substations are secured with chain-link fencing, barbed wire and posted with signage warning of high voltage danger. Trespassing on OPALCO property is punishable by law and the FBI was notified, following OPALCO’s incident protocol.

The Sheriff’s department is in contact with the FBI who are evaluating the incident for possible federal charges.

Island worker dies in car crash

The Fire Department also responded to a report of a single vehicle crash on Orcas Island’s North Shore

at approximately 2:30 a.m. the following morning, Sunday, March 16. A 2007 Toyota Tundra pickup had struck a tree on Sunset Avenue. The single occupant was Jikee Gay, 29, who has been working as a deck builder on Orcas Island. Gay was from Virginia Beach Virg.

Sheriff Bill Cumming said preliminary investigations show that excessive speed was a factor in the accident. Although there were no visual witnesses, area residents reported hearing the vehicle accelerate. Death was upon impact. A post-mortem exam will include a toxicology screen, which usually takes weeks to complete, according to Cumming.