Two US firemen electrocuted while taking part in ice-bucket challenge

One officer left in critical condition after incident at Campbellsville University in Kentucky

us editor

Two US firemen remain in a hospital burns unit after being electrocuted when the extendable ladder on their fire engine drew too close to high-voltage power lines just as they were wrapping up a charity ice-bucket challenge with university students.

Members of the marching band at Campbellsville University in Kentucky had just been doused by freezing water released by a hose at the top of the ladder when it got so close to the main electricity lines leading to the campus that current jumped across, shocking two firemen in the ladder bucket, Captain Tony Grider and Simon Quinn.

Capt Grider was reported to be in a critical condition at the University of Louisville Hospital.

The accident has injected a sober note into the otherwise mostly joyful summer craze that has seen thousands of people, including many celebrities, taking part in ice-bucket challenges to raise money for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and posting video clips and pictures on YouTube and social-media websites.

Since challenges started at the end of last month, about $40m (£24m) has been raised in the US alone in the search for a cure for ALS, which is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in America and is one of five types of motor neurone disease. Among those subjecting themselves to icy showers in recent days have been George W Bush, with his wife, Laura, doing the honours, and singers Justin Bieber and Shakira. The Campbellsville accident occurred on Thursday.

“A number of our students, of course, the entire marching band, witnessed the event and so we’re concerned about them and the tragedy of this accident,” the university’s president, Michael Carter, told a local television station.

Officials in Campbellsville, about 60 miles from Louisville, confirmed that the fire engine’s ladder never actually touched the power lines and it was the unusually high voltage they were carrying that caused a charge to leap to the ladder.

Students said they heard a loud bang and saw a shower of sparks. It led to a widespread power cut, including to the campus of Campbellsville University, a privately funded Christian college.

“It’s tragic, I feel for all the band members who were still there when it happened, that they had to see that,” said Julie Smith, a nursing student who led a vigil for the injured firemen on Thursday evening.

Captain Grider, 41, is a 16-year veteran of the local fire brigade. Mr Quinn, 22, who was listed in fair condition, joined only recently. “We never know when something like this is going to happen,” said the senior judge and county executive, Eddie Rogers. “Everybody’s heartbroken over it.”

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