Police in Fayette County said Thursday that a man was electrocuted when he picked up a live power line that he had shot down in order to steal copper from it.
Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler said the man’s body was found Wednesday in Thurmond near Babcock State Park. He was identified Thursday as 22-year-old Dalton Newhouse of Oak Hill.
Kessler said Newhouse and an accomplice planned to strip the line of its copper wiring to later sell as scrap metal. Newhouse was killed instantly when he picked up the power line, Kessler said.
An accomplice was charged with an attempt to commit a felony, conspiracy to commit a felony and disruption of a public utility. He was not immediately identified.
Officials tell the Charleston Daily Mail that attempted copper thefts claim two to three lives each year.
Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said copper thefts began to spike in 2006, and that a few people have died each year since then.
“It may be the most dangerous form of theft someone can do,” Moye said. “You can never tell by looking at a line whether it is energized or not. We constantly tell people to stay away from them.”
Moye said the incident in Thurmond knocked out electricity to 50 customers. The line involved was a higher voltage transmission line, he said.
While thieves can get quick cash by selling the copper for scrap, Moye said his company tries to educate the public that it’s not worth the risk.
“Our own employees have a healthy respect for electricity,” he said. “It’s hard to comprehend the state of mind, or the desperation, of someone who does this.”