Family seeks answers in wake of power line accident

Harrison Mills woman suffered severe burns, while two of her dogs were killed in bizarre accident

The Harrison Mills woman who was badly burned by electricity last weekend is in stable condition in hospital, according to a family member.

The woman was walking with her dogs in her rural community last Sunday, when they walked near a low-hanging, live hydro line. The two dogs were killed and the woman’s body caught fire. She managed to yell for help, attracting the attention of campers in the nearby Kilby Campground.

The woman has now lost both her arms, undergone numerous skin graphs, and faces years of rehabilitation, said her sister Laura Nichols, who lives in Chilliwack.

With her sister still unable to communicate, it’s been difficult to piece together what happened that day. Her family is also trying to find some clarity among a common held belief that BC Hydro was informed of the damaged hydro line. It had been swaying about two feet from the ground in a harvested corn field since the massive windstorm that hit the area over the Thanksgiving weekend.

It’s a small community, with only a handful of houses, but Nichols notes that the Kilby campground and historic site nearby are busy areas.

BC Hydro has stated that they did not know there was a power line down in the area, and would have fixed it immediately as per their protocol. Neighbours in the area say the power line feeds a pumphouse managed by the District of Kent.

“The whole neighbourhood is fantastic,” Nichols said. “I’ve spoken to every one of them. But we need to know if the call was made.”

She is hoping anyone with more information about the incident that day, or in the days leading up to it, will contact the RCMP.

And she hopes people will hear the story and remember not to assume that someone else has made an important safety call.

“You should always go a bit further,” she said, when you notice something unsafe.

Kent’s mayor, John Van Laerhoven, said that he has spoken with the woman’s family and relayed all the information they have at this time. He said the District’s staff was unaware there was a problem with the power line prior to this incident.

He said the District of Kent, which stretches from the Agassiz-Rosedale bridge, to Harrison Mills, and north of Harrison Hot Springs, is too large to check on all areas after storms.

“I don’t think we have the staff to drive down every road, and drive every dike,” he said.

He added that in the event that anyone sees a downed power line, they should report it to BC Hydro immediately.

“It’s a Hydro issue,” he said. “We don’t know anything other than that, that it went down and Hydro is saying they weren’t called.”