Family says man died after fox got into substation, caused power outage

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ST GEORGE, Utah – The family of a local man says a power outage on Sunday resulted in the death of their father, and that blackout happened because a fox got into the substation.

Now family members hope the city takes a closer look at what it does to keep animals out.

Cindy LaCorti said her 67-year-old father-in-law, John Hopkins, relied on an oxygen machine 24 hours a day. So when it shut off during the power outage, he passed away fairly quickly.

“Mother went to find the tank, the spare tank,” LaCorti said. “She first had to find the flashlight and get things going, and then she couldn’t find the key for [the tank.]”

Paramedics had been making rounds to check on residents, but when they got to Hopkins’ apartment he wasn’t breathing. Medics revived him briefly, but he died at the hospital.

“To have the power grid go off like that; it’s got to cause a lot more problems,” LaCorti said. “But death is certainly something that we don’t want happening.”

The LaCorti family said they don’t blame the city for what happened, but they do believe it was a preventable accident. The city uses chain link fencing to keep people and critters out of the substations, but Cindy’s husband, Peter, wonders if a more solid material, like cinder blocks, would be better at keeping everything out.

“[Chain link] keeps people out,” Peter said. “But there’s a snake that could have done the same thing, or a rat, or anything. Any animal could get through it.”

City utility directors declined to further comment on the power outage or on Hopkins’ death as a result. Earlier this week, power employees said they do take measures to keep wildlife away from electrical substations, but it’s a situation that has happened about once a year.

The LaCorti family said when people’s safety is at risk, those precautions should be re-evaluated.

“It’s funny; it’s a fox got fried,” Cindy LaCorti said. “But we have a lot of elderly people, and we feel that there should maybe be more done.”

Five County Association of Governments Director of Aging and Human Services Carrie Schonlaw said they work with the Department of Health to encourage those with elderly family and friends to institute an “emergency buddy” system.

Under the campaign, those in need of assistance are taught who to call, and what to do in an emergency. Family and friends are also encouraged to check on those elderly people when disaster hits.

9 comments

  • bob

    My condolences. But my son is in exactly the same situation. I ASSUME the power will go out. (And it does, fairly regularly.) I keep a generator gassed up and ready to go, spare oxygen bottles at the bedside, etc. Power outages are not an emergency. Merely annoying.

    Furthermore, if you simply call your local fire house they’ll put you on a list of people who need emergency power when the lights go out.

    This family failed to make simple, common-sense preparations for something that EVERYONE knows is going to happen from time to time. By their own admission the oxygen tanks were hidden somewhere in the dark, and they had no flashlight handy.

    Now they’ll demand a large sum of money from the power company for failing to provide perfect, foolproof service at all times. And WE, the rate payers, will cough up the money.

    Welcome to America. No matter what happens it’s someone else’s fault.

    • Joe

      Bob, you are such a dumb as a rock. Reread the article, the family said they DO NOT blame the city for what happened. They just ask that they look to see if something can be done to prevent it. Yes, I am on oxygen 24/7 and things don’t go perfect all the time. You are assuming what the family will do. You are probably one that would sue and the drop of a hat.

    • Betty Mckenna

      Bob you obviously care very much about your son. Everyone should learn a lesson from this. Never assume the power will always be reliable. I have NEVER lived in a place where the power doesn’t fail from time to time. After reading this article If I or anyone in our family ever needs oxygen 24/7 we will be prepared for such a thing as minor as a power outage. No one should have to die for such a ridiculous reason. Lesson learned over here! Thank you to the Hopkins family for sharing this story. It’s sad!

  • Phil

    My condolences, but the city isn’t to blame what if weather related incident put out the power. No blame this on poor planning and preparation.

  • cindy

    The elderly wife brought the tank, started to get it working, but the poor guy passed out on top of the tank. A 87lb women couldn’t lift him. I hope others don’get put in a panic situation, and loose a love one. You may not be as prepared as you think. The family.

  • Chuck j

    working for the DOE, you cannot keep everything out. We lost a 230/115 kv transformer that was 5 years old to a pheasant. A pheasant flew in the lines above the transformer and blew it up. How do you prevent that? Smaller systems are radial, one way, and not looped. No one wants power lines in their neighborhood. So you work with what you have. This is the benefit of living in a bigger city like SLC not St George.

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