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Power line accident prompts an inquiry

It's not unique. OSHA says 23 construction workers have been electrocuted in Florida since '98; 13 involved overhead lines.

By MATTIAS KAREN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday it has opened an investigation into the accidental electrocution of a roof supply deliveryman late Tuesday afternoon.

The kind of accident that killed 33-year-old Gregory Gillenwater of Clearwater is hardly unique, said Lawrence Falck, an OSHA spokesman in Tampa. Since 1998, 23 construction workers have been electrocuted in Florida. Thirteen of those cases involved overhead power lines.

"Unfortunately, it's not (uncommon)," Falck said. But he could not comment on the investigation until it is complete.

Gillenwater, an employee of Suncoast Roofer Supply of Tampa, died after a metal conveyor extending from a truck hit an overhead power line in the Lake Shore Estates subdivision.

He had been trying to guide the truck, which was loaded with shingles, around some trees so it could position the conveyor next to a house.

At the time of the accident, Gillenwater was standing beside the truck with one hand on the vehicle, and he was trying to get the driver to stop before the conveyor hit the power line.

Florida Power spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said 7,200 volts were running through the line. Neighboring houses were without power for a couple of hours before repairs were completed Tuesday night, she said.

Gillenwater was pronounced dead about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The accident occurred at 165 Lake Shore Drive E in Palm Harbor.

The driver of the truck, 27-year-old George Mention of Clearwater, was able to get out of the truck unharmed.

Electrocution and falls accounted for 63 percent of all construction fatalities in 1999, according to OSHA statistics.

Suncoast president Bill Tamayo did not return a call to his office Wednesday.

Mattias Karen can be reached at (727) 445-4243 or at northpin@sptimes.com

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