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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2003 Jun;24(2):173-6.

Death during theft from electric utilities.

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Center for Injury Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35233, USA.


Utilities that supply power are subject to theft of service and theft of hardware used to provide service. Individuals who try to steal from a power utility risk electrocution. We conducted a retrospective study of all individuals examined by the Jefferson County Coroner Medical Examiner Office from January 1981 through December 2001 and found that 8 individuals died trying to steal from a power utility. All decedents were men, with an average age of 33 years. Seven decedents were stealing copper, and 1 was stealing electricity. Only 1 decedent survived long enough to be admitted to a hospital. Five decedents were intoxicated, 3 with ethanol, 1 with cocaine, and 1 with both cocaine and ethanol. Seven decedents sustained electrical burns in keeping with the high voltage to which they were subjected. The unburned decedent died of laceration of the aorta at its origin from the heart, an injury sustained when the decedent fell from the power pole. All 8 decedents attempted their theft during daylight. Items found in the decedent's pockets, the presence of a ladder nearby, or the presence of electrical tools around the body may help to establish the attempted act of theft.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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