New-Journal

Struck power line sparks Deltona fire

By MARK HARPER
Staff Writer

Last update: 20 June 2003


DELTONA -- Robert Paladino was painting a cabinet in the garage of his fixer-upper investment house at 1297 Voyager St.

Just outside, a B & F Supply Co. deliveryman set up a conveyor belt to lift new shingles to the roof. It was just after 3 Thursday afternoon when Joe Small, 23, of Daytona Beach, swung the boom from the truck toward the roof.

He struck a live Progress Energy power line carrying 7,200 volts of electricity.

"I heard the big pop and I saw sparks," Paladino said.

Voltage ran back through the boom and electrified the delivery truck, estimated to be worth $150,000.

The current ignited the tires and soon after, flames engulfed the truck before jumping a few feet across to another pickup in the driveway. It, too, was destroyed.

Small was electrocuted and jumped off the truck but went by EVAC ambulance to Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City, where his condition was unavailable Thursday night. A firefighter who injured his back while fighting the fire was also transported, but his injuries were not serious, Assistant Chief Robert Rogers said.

Small, his brother, John, and Paladino retreated to the back yard, where they called 911. The Deltona Fire-Rescue Department responded in six minutes, but couldn't start fighting the fire for another 26 minutes as it waited for Progress Energy personnel to shut off the power, Rogers said.

Rogers said the flames were "within minutes" of reaching the house, which made Paladino anxious.

The accident caused a power outage at about 200 south Deltona homes, said Karen Breakell, a spokeswoman for Progress Energy, which provides power to Deltona.

Thirteen years ago, a 21-year-old Sanford man was killed in much the same fashion on Commerce Avenue in Deltona, according to News-Journal archives.

Timothy Anderson was loading shingles onto a roof when the boom touched a power line. Apparently not realizing the truck was carrying live electricity, he grabbed the driver's door to turn the truck off and was electrocuted.

"The real problem is what kind of training and experience do these boom operators have?" Rogers said. "(Small) was way into that power line and he shouldn't have been anywhere near that."

mark.harper@news-jrnl.com