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Suspected copper thief shocked on power lines

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

The adage that crime doesn’t pay held some truth for one suspected copper thief Wednesday morning.

According to the Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Daniel Clower was badly burned trying to swipe copper from a power pole near a residence on Gray Knob Road near Kingston.

Investigator Greg Russell said Clower was shocked so badly he had to be airlifted to the Erlanger Burn Center in Chattanooga.

Russell said Clower had severe burns to his hands, was bleeding badly from the mouth and lost some of his teeth.

“It’s a deadly game they’re playing,” Russell said, of copper thieves who mess with power poles. “It didn’t pay off for him.”

According to the offense report, Tina Brown told authorities that Clower left her home for about an hour and a half before he returned injured.

“Brown stated that she believed that he was attempting to steal copper wiring from the power pole and got shocked,” the report states.

Officers reported finding Clower’s hat, pliers and flashlight near a power pole close to the residence.

Russell said it appeared as if Clower was using a pair of needle-nose pliers to cut copper wiring.

“It messed him up pretty bad,” Russell said.

Power poles are a prime target for copper thieves, but theft-related electrical accidents don’t appear to be all that common.

Kendall Bear, general manager of Rockwood Electric Utility, said Wednesday’s reported accident was the first he’s heard of in nearly 10 years with the utility.

Power lines can have as many as 7,200 volts traveling through them at a given time.

“Obviously it’s very dangerous because this individual was hurt pretty bad from what I understand,” Bear said. “It’s life threatening.”

Bear said REU has experienced quite a bit of copper theft from its power poles in recent years.

“Only trained, qualified and experienced personnel need to be handling an energized line,” Bear said.

Clower was still listed as a patient in the burn unit at Erlanger Thursday morning.

Russell said charges will be pending if he recovers.