Wednesday, May 24, 2017

46-year-old window washer Matthew Blackburn was electrocuted to death in Oakland, PA when his NES Rentals bucket truck touched a 23K volt power line

Worker killed after elevated bucket strikes power lines in Oakland

Shelly Bradbury
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

4:58 PM
May 23, 2017

A man washing windows at an Oakland apartment building was electrocuted Tuesday after the cherry picker he was working in came into contact with a high-tension power line.

Authorities said Matthew Blackburn, 46, of Jefferson Hills died after his bucket touched the wires at 540 N. Neville St. Immediately after the incident, which occurred about 10:20 a.m., Duquesne Light was called to the scene to shut off power in the area so first responders could gain access to the bucket and Mr. Blackburn. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lauren O’Brien, 23, said she saw a fireball explode around the man while she was walking to catch a bus. She’d been watching him work on the lift and said he was close to the power lines.

“A huge cloud of flames engulfed him,” she said. “It didn’t seem real.”

The man remained standing for a few moments after the fireball, Ms. O’Brien said.

“At first I thought maybe he was fine, because he was standing still,” she said.

But a few moments later, he crumpled to the the platform of the lift, she said.

A spokeswoman for Duquesne Light Co. said Mr. Blackburn was not an employee or contractor with the company.

The Duquesne Light website provides contractor safety information and procedures for projects done near overhead power lines.

“Each year a number of accidents involving contact with high voltage lines occur. These accidents often result in serious injury or death,” the website says.

“Federal and state governments share our concern. In an effort to prevent these types of accidents, they have enacted laws to provide safer working conditions in areas near high voltage lines.”

The laws make it illegal for any person, tool or other object to be within 10 feet of energized power lines for voltages below 50 kilovolts, according to Duquesne Light. Distances are increased for voltages above 50 kilovolts, the utility said.

A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to a question about the voltage on the line that the worker’s bucket hit.

Crane operators are required by law to contact the electric utility if they are working within 20 feet of energized power lines, according to Duquesne Light. It was not clear whether the company operating the crane notified Duquesne Light.

The lift had the name “NES Rentals” printed on it. A person who answered the phone at the company declined to comment.

The Pittsburgh field office of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it was aware of the electrocution and had responded to the scene.


OAKLAND (KDKA) – A window washer has died after being electrocuted in Oakland Tuesday morning.

According to emergency dispatchers, the incident happened around 10 a.m. in the 540 block of North Neville Street.

The man was working in a cherry picker when it came in contact with a 23,000-volt power line.

“I was walking that way to get to the bus and I just happened to be looking up and I saw a giant flame cover the man. Then, there was a really loud sound, and then I didn’t know what happened,” Lauren O’Brien said.

The victim has been identified as 46-year-old Matthew Blackburn of Jefferson Hills.

Power crews were also called to the scene because the line was still live.

Police say the victim worked for a private window washing company and the bucket truck was rented. Police say the victim’s son had also been working on scene when the accident happened. What investigators are trying to figure out is how it happened.

“OSHA is here, along with the rental company of the bucket truck, and the windows washing company,” said Pittsburgh Police Commander Dan Herrmann.

The investigation continues.


PITTSBURGH, PA - A window washer was electrocuted Tuesday morning when a lift truck came in contact with power lines in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Channel 11 has learned the victim is Matthew Blackburn, 46, of Jefferson Hills.

Channel 11’s Courtney Brennan reported transformers were visibly charred.

“It was a huge, like, cloud of flames,” Lauren O’Brien, a witness, said. “It felt like a whole minute, but it was probably like 10 seconds, of just, like, engulfed in flames. It felt like I was watching a movie."  

O'Brien was walking down North Neville Street when a window washer working in the bucket of a lift truck hit a 23,000 volt power line.

O'Brien and the pastor of a nearby church called 911.

Authorities said Blackburn was instantly killed.

His son was on the job with him, and Channel 11 saw devastated family members arrive at the scene very quickly.

They were inconsolable as rescue crews waited nearly two hours to bring the man's body down.

"It's frustrating that all the paramedic rescue, the firefighters and police are here wanting to save this man, to go up there and do that, but scene safety is paramount," said Zone 4 Cmdr. Dan Herrmann.

Crews had to wait to ensure the lines were no longer live.

Witnesses said the man was part of a crew that was washing windows at an apartment building.

Duquesne Light came in and cut the power so that rescuers could safely recover the body.

OSHA is now investigating if the lift malfunctioned or the operator accidentally hit the power line.

"It's hands down the worst thing I've seen in my whole life," O'Brien said.

Police said their investigation is ongoing as well.