Uninsulated wire caused boy's death
Report answers questions in Willie Wagner's death on Town Street Bridge
Published: Thursday, June 26, 2003
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
The downtown electrocution of a 9-year-old boy was caused by the failure of the insulation in a 480-volt wire in the base of a light post, according to a report from investigators.
Willie Wagner was killed May 22 when he simultaneously came in contact with the energized Northwest light post and an adjacent chain link fence on the Town Street Bridge according to the report by John Loud of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates.
The firm was hired by the city after tests performed by the Department of Electricity could not locate the malfunction. The fault may have been cleared by the movement of wires early in the investigation by department personnel, so it was not found during subsequent testing, according to the report.
"We were very impressed by the thoroughness of the investigation and the candidness of the conclusion," said Jerry Leeseberg, lawyer for Wagner's family.
Leeseberg will meet with the city attorney's office. As long as they see eye to eye, there will be no need for litigation, he said.
"We'll sit down and talk with them and decide what will be a fair resolution of the claim," he said.
Wagner was returning from a trip to COSI with a friend and the friend's father on the night of the incident. Wagner had gone ahead of the other two, and nobody witnessed the accident.
According to Loud's report, "The two boys had left the sidewalk and had crawled underneath the fence to gain access to the space between the chain link fence and the bridge railing. The position of Willie's body indicates that he was electrocuted as he moved through the small gap between the fence and the Northwest light post."
The friend's father received an electric shock, as he attempted to pull Wagner from underneath the fence.
"We've inspected every circuit in the city since then," said Greg Davies of the Columbus Department of Public Utilities. "We have about 2,000 lights that are currently down."
Routine maintenance and repairs were required for some of the lights, Davies said. He expected all of the lights to be functional within two to three weeks.