A gas company worker was electrocuted by a downed power line Thursday afternoon in Lockport and died, authorities said.
According to Lafourche Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Brennan Matherne, deputies responded shortly after 4:45 p.m. to the 700 block of East Main Street after receiving reports that a South Coast Gas Co. employee had been electrocuted while working on a job site.
“Upon arrival to the scene, first responders found him lying unresponsive and lying near the electrical line,” Matherne said. “Based on eyewitness descriptions, it became apparent he had come into contact with an active electrical line.”
The man, identified as 63-year-old Kim McGee of Raceland, was in the process of locating a gas line so Entergy technicians could repair some power lines that had been blown down during a thunderstorm late Tuesday night, South Coast Gas Co. President Michael St. Romain said.
“He was locating our gas lines so that Entergy could replace a broken pole,” St. Romain said. “There were some wires that he came into contact with that were not isolated. When he came into contact with those wires, it killed him.”
The power lines were all too familiar to Sampey Fabrication owner Ross Sampey, who said he’s made numerous attempts to have the utility pole relocated because it posed a danger to his employees.
“The tragedy happened right in front of my facility Thursday afternoon,” Sampey said. “The night prior to the incident, one of our power lines broke because of the bad wind and weather. One of my employees at my machine shop next door came in at 4:30 in the morning and contacted me and Entergy about the power line being down. It was still hot and live. Someone needed to address the problem because it was certainly a hazard.”
Despite calling Entergy four times, no one from the utility company showed up to address the problem, Sampey said.
“Then Entergy called South Coast Gas for them to come out to mark the gas lines because they probably needed to reset the utility pole,” Sampey said. “One of my guys told me there was about 60,000 volts coming off that pole.”
By not disconnecting the power before contacting South Coast Gas, the utility company needlessly exposed McGee to a hazardous situation, Sampey said.
“It took 18 minutes for Entergy to come after the man had died to disconnect the power,” Sampey said. “This whole tragedy could have been avoided months ago because I contacted Entergy about moving those powerlines. They ended up sending me a quote for $53,000 just to move them. Now people want to hear my voice because someone lost his life. It shouldn’t have ever come to this. It’s not a good situation.”
Entergy spokesperson Amber Ferchaud said the company was looking into the incident but declined to comment further until the investigation had been completed.
McGee’s untimely death has left his South Coast Gas coworkers shaken and heartbroken. The company, which has been in operation since 1945, had never experienced such a tragedy in its 72-year history, company officials said.
Headquartered in Raceland, South West Gas serves more than 19,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes and has 32 employees, according to the company’s website.
McGee, who had worked as a locator and cathodic protection specialist, had worked for the gas company for 45 years and was instrumental to its daily operations, St. Romain said.
“He was a very respected and likeable employee,” St. Romain said. “He had many other responsibilities as well. He protected all of the gas lines from corrosion, which is a very important job. He also provided a lot of knowledge and training to the younger employees.”
McGee’s autopsy was scheduled for this evening, the Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office said.