PG&E worker electrocuted in Benicia

March 17, 2010 11:50:11 PM PDT
A lot of questions are being asked about the tragic death of a PG&E worker on the job. Investigators say the 26-year-old lineman was electrocuted Wednesday morning while working in an underground vault in Benicia, at Chadwick Way and Panorama Drive.

Investigators remained at the scene Wednesday evening, more than seven hours after the incident, desperately trying to figure out what happened that cost the young lineman his life.

"I was working out in the yard and I heard somebody screaming," Terry Pennington recalled.

Pennington lives just down the street from where a four-man crew of PG&E employees was working near an underground vault on Panorama Drive in Benicia Wednesday.

"I looked up the hill and I could hear some more screaming and there was smoke coming out, and I said, 'Call 911,'" he said.

PG&E identified the worker as 26-year-old Max Martinez, a lineman based in Calistoga. He was installing a new transformer in the 12,000-volt vault when he was electrocuted.

"This is a sad day for PG&E. We lost a member of our family this morning," said PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson. "And, our prayers and condolences go out to Max's family, his friends and his coworkers."

While his co-workers were consoled by a police chaplain, Martinez's body was loaded into a Solano County coroner's van. No one else in the crew was injured. PG&E could not say whether the lineman was doing maintenance work or some sort of repair or if he was part of a team.

"We don't know who was in what proximity or have any details as to that, but right now, we're taking every precaution to make sure that all employees who were affected in any way are taken care of," said PG&E spokesman Katie Romans.

Cal-OSHA sent two investigators to Panorama Drive. Benicia police were also on hand, but are not part of the investigation. The last time a PG&E worker was killed on the job was in March 2009, when a lineman from Tracy fell 30 feet from a utility pole in the Sierra Foothills.

In January 2008, another lineman was electrocuted in El Dorado County while trying to restore power after a storm.

"Any kind of accident or any measure to be taken to improve upon processes will actually be seized upon," Romans told ABC7.

Martinez had worked for PG&E for five years. Cal-OSHA reports that in the past five years, they have investigated 16 accidents involving PG&E workers. The company has 20,000 employees.


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