NewsCon Edison Media Relations
For Immediate Release: October 29, 2008
STATEMENT FROM CON EDISON
The following communication was sent to Con Edison employees yesterday regarding the company’s investigation into the death of Distribution Splicer George J. Dillman on October 9:
On Thursday, October 9, 2008, I informed you with deep regret of the loss of George J. Dillman, 26, Distribution Splicer, during a manhole fire in Brooklyn that day. The purpose of this letter is to share information about this tragic incident and to review how we plan to minimize the chance of a recurrence. I also want to thank the Con Edison employees who responded immediately to the event and all the employees who investigated this incident.
On October 9, Mr. Dillman and his assistant were assigned to perform splicing of 120-volt cables in a manhole located at Euclid and Sutter Avenues in Brooklyn. Just before the incident, Mr. Dillman was in the manhole, and his assistant was at the street level. A ladder for entry and exit had been removed from the manhole so that Mr. Dillman could work there.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., a 120-volt short circuit occurred in cable leading into the manhole. Eyewitnesses report hearing a buzzing or popping noise at approximately 12:30 p.m. followed by smoke coming from the manhole. Mr. Dillman's assistant, who was outside the manhole, radioed for emergency assistance and placed the ladder in the manhole just as flames came up from it. He sprayed the intense flames with a fire extinguisher but was unable to put out the fire. The FDNY, along with company crews, responded to the site shortly after receiving the emergency call. The FDNY noted that the fire was extinguished at 12:54 p.m. The Company crews were in the process of de-energizing all electrical lines into the manhole at this time.
In an effort to understand the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic occurrence, the Company conducted an exhaustive investigation, including interviewing numerous witnesses. We carefully studied the interior of the manhole and all of the cable and connections within it, as well as more than 150 feet of cable and related components that were removed from the manhole and connecting conduits. The fire caused by the short circuit damaged cable in two conduits that were adjacent to one another; approximately 65 feet of 120-volt cable was destroyed in one conduit, and approximately 25 feet of 120-volt cable was destroyed in the other. There was no significant damage to the 120-volt cables or connections within the manhole. There was no damage to the two 27,000-volt cables that were also in the manhole.
Other than the sections of cable damaged by the fault, the examination did not reveal any abnormal conditions. A video camera was inserted in the conduits that housed the damaged 120-volt cables to determine if external damage could have been the cause of the initial cable failure. In areas where a portion of the damaged cable could not be removed, the area was excavated to inspect for signs of external damage. No signs of external damage were found. Atmospheric testing data, recorded prior to the event and retrieved from the manhole, did not reveal the presence of any combustible or flammable gases. Subsequent testing of the surrounding area and subsurface structures also did not reveal any combustible or flammable gases. Extensive testing and analysis of other potential contributing factors did not reveal any abnormal conditions or circumstances that could have caused this tragedy.
The investigation found that Mr. Dillman used all proper personal protective equipment (PPE) required for the job he was doing. He was wearing his safety harness. The investigation also found that Mr. Dillman’s assistant did everything he could have done to extricate his partner from the manhole.
Prevention of Future Occurrences
We are focusing our preventive efforts on measures to emphasize basic manhole safety. These practices should help employees who work in manholes to recognize and remove themselves from potentially dangerous situations:
I will also attend the College Point “All Hands” meeting to review the accident with George’s closest co-workers.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to George’s family, fiancée, colleagues, and friends.
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