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Utility worker 'narrowly escaped death' while restoring power following severe weather, video shows

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
April 16, 2019, 3:04:21 PM EDT

The same severe weather system that brought deadly twisters to parts of the South over the weekend moved up the Eastern Seaboard late Sunday and into early Monday, spawning a line of heavy thunderstorms. Tens of thousands were left without electricity as strong winds knocked down power lines and severe weather caused transformers to explode. Utility technicians worked tirelessly to restore power to those customers impacted by the storm.

One such utility worker, employed by Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), "narrowly escaped death" when fallen wires erupted into flames early Monday morning in Manchester Township, New Jersey, which is about 85 miles south of New York City.

The Manchester Police Department shared a video on Facebook that shows the harrowing incident unravel.

Manchester dash cam

Dashcam video shows a utility worker engulfed in sparks and flames after a live wire hit wet ground in Manchester Township, NJ, following a thunderstorm on April 16, 2019. (Facebook / Manchester Township Police)

Manchester police officers were on the scene, responding to a report that a traffic light was out at the intersection of State Highway 70 and Colonial Drive due to the power outage from Monday’s storm. Sparks were flying due to an arcing transformer as the officers were setting up traffic cones and directing traffic.

Meanwhile, the JCP&L employee worked to remove a fallen wire from a traffic light pole at around 6:30 a.m. The wire, which the employee reportedly believed had been de-energized, caught fire as it struck the wet ground, instantly igniting a massive electrical explosion that set the ground on fire and prompted the technician, who has yet to be identified, to run and dodge the flames.

Manchester Police Sgt. Christopher Hemhauser was parked nearby at the time of the incident.

“He [the utility worker] was definitely startled,” Hemhauser told NBC10. “Seemed just like myself. Kind of in shock as to what happened."

An explosion occurred earlier at the same spot, which caused Hemhauser and another officer to flee the scene. Fire from the second explosion that was caught on video was so hot that it burned holes in the asphalt, NBC10 reported.

“Luckily, he was wearing proper safety equipment,” the Manchester Police Facebook post reads. “At the end of the night, no one was injured and everyone made it home.”

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JCP&L is currently conducting an investigation to determine what exactly happened, according to JCP&L Spokeswomen Jennifer Young.

Young confirmed that the utility worker is not injured and that the incident occurred during efforts to restore power following Monday’s severe weather.

"I’ve met, worked alongside these JCP&L guys on many scenes,” Hemhauser told NBC10. “They are very cautious. They follow the rules. Something obviously was wrong here.”

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