`Perfect storm scenario' led to electrocution at park

May 11, 2006|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

A series of factors led to the electrocution of a 14-year-old softball player in Druid Hill Park on Friday: The exposed tip of a metal fence post came in contact with an underground electrical cable, and the girl touched a second metal fence, completing a deadly circuit, a city official said yesterday.

"We've determined how this happened," city parks Director Connie A. Brown announced yesterday after four days of near silence from City Hall regarding the accidental death of Deanna Green of Randallstown.

In his first public statement about the incident, Mayor Martin O'Malley said that he had contacted the family to express his sympathy.

"This is such a deeply tragic and sad loss of life," he said. "Any of us who have kids, you know your heart really goes out to the parents."

Green's parents, Anthony and Nancy Green, declined to comment on the announcement regarding the cause of their daughter's death.

The teenager was playing softball with other members of her church Friday night when she touched two metal fences at Field No. 8. Witnesses said the eighth-grader was stretching between the two fences when she fell to the ground unconscious. She died later that night.

Brown called the incident a "perfect storm scenario," and said that other park visitors might have also touched the same electrified fence and walked away without injury.

He said Green was killed because she happened to touch both fences at the same time, action that allowed a large quantity of electrical current to flow through her body. Metal is an excellent conductor of electrical current.

He said the electrified fence was constructed at least 20 years ago in an effort to protect players from foul balls. The fence was erected by a contractor who failed to encase at least one of the poles anchoring it to the ground in concrete, Brown said.

Over the years, the tip of the exposed pole came in contact with the underground cable and the fence became electrified when insulation covering the cable wore away, Brown said.

"At that point, the pole became electrified," he said.

Brown said the name of the contractor who performed the work is not known. He said he had contacted a retired parks employee who handled contract work around the time that the fence was constructed, but the former employee could not remember who had done the work. Brown said the job was not performed by city employees.

Brown said a severed ground wire prevented a power outage at the ball field that might have alerted park officials to a potential problem with the underground cable. He said park maintenance crews would never dig up an underground cable unless there was some reason to do so, such as a light tower not working properly. There is no maintenance schedule for underground cables, he said.

City officials said the underground cable at Field No. 8 was installed sometime before the fence. They said it carries up to 277 volts of electricity, but on the night Green was killed it was carrying 232 volts.

Brown said Field No. 8 would remain closed to the public until further notice.

He said park officials are considering inspecting all metal fences at city parks to see if there are electrical cables or wires underneath them.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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