By Greg Laychak, Observer
A woman from Harrison Mills who was seriously burned by a live, low-hanging hydro line in October near Kilby Provincial Park underwent her fourth surgery last week, according to her sister.
“She went through a five hour operation last Thursday,” said Laura Nichols, a sibling of the woman who lives in Chilliwack. “That’s a long time for a body to go through an operation.”
Not much else had changed in her condition Nichols said, but she’s now able to nod her head from her Vancouver General Hospital ICU bed.
Until the woman is able to speak no one will know exactly what happened on Oct. 18 around 4 p.m. when she was badly injured by electricity and her two dogs were electrocuted by the fallen power line.
As a result of the accident she has now lost both her arms, undergone numerous skin grafts, and faces years of rehabilitation, said Nichols.
A German couple who came to the woman’s assistance contacted Black Press to shed more light on what happened that day.
After returning from taking photos and video in the surrounding area, Heike and Juergen Wiegand heard the injured woman’s cries from where they were on the Kilby Campground.
According to an email from Heike, they went to the nearby dike where the incident had occurred to find the source of the noise.
“My husband and I had only one thought: ‘We need to help the woman,’” wrote Heike. “On the dike we ran to the end of the field, looking for a possibility to reach the woman. After few seconds we found a way next to the power pole to reach her.”
Heike then knelt beside the woman, laid her hands on her forehead and body and spoke to her.
“She said, ‘I can’t breath’ over and over again,” wrote Heike. “I told her, ‘You can breath. Take a breath in and out.’”
According to Heike, the time until the ambulance arrived at the accident scene “seemed like an eternity.”
As of yet no witnesses of the actual event have come forward, if there were any at all.
And Nichols is still waiting for more definite answers from authorities.
“There was a whole week there where the live wire was hanging there,” she said. “It’s horrendous what’s happened, it’s unbelievable actually.”
Last week 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.”
Nichols can’t believe that no one passing by noticed the line in that span of time, and if they did that it wasn’t reported.
Her sister lives by herself and has many animals.
“She is a very independent woman who loves her animals,” said a neighbour who is looking after some of the temporarily orphaned cats. “She would have done anything to help her dogs.”
There is speculation from neighbours that the woman had entered the bushes where the dangling power line was exposed to rescue her dogs, that might have come in contact with the electrical current when they followed the scent of a dead raccoon.
“That the injuries are very serious we knew,” said Heike Wiegand in her email. “But when we read that she has lost both arms, we were deeply shocked.”
“Not one day, one hour passes without thinking of the woman.”
~ with files from Jessica Peters