Two Georgia men allegedly stealing copper killed after substation explodes

Police believe one of the men was killed by the force of the substation explosion

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 05 April 2023 21:19 BST
A substation in Gainesville, Georgia, where two men were killed while allegedly trying to steal copper and electrical components
A substation in Gainesville, Georgia, where two men were killed while allegedly trying to steal copper and electrical components (Gainesville Police Department)

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Two men suspected of stealing copper wire at an electrical power station in Georgia reportedly died after being electrocuted and subjected to the force of a transformer explosion, according to Gainesville police.

Police received a call around 3am on Monday morning from an individual who said they heard an explosion at a nearby power station, Gainesville Police Department Lieutenant Kevin Hollbrook told CBS News.

Two men were trying to steal copper wiring and electrical components from the facility, according to police.

Police units as well as fire department first responders arrived on scene, where they found that a transformer had exploded. They also found the bodies of the two men, Shane Joseph Long, 45, and Christopher Blair Wood, 44, inside.

Mr Holbrook said that one of the men was likely electrocuted, as "there were visible marks" on his body. He theorised the other man may have been killed when the transformer blew.

He told CBS News that recovery efforts were difficult, as one man's body was found at the bottom of the substation "in a pool of water," and the other man's body was "one-to-two stories up on the top of a substation”.

Copper thieves frequently target abandoned homes or new-builds that have not been completed, after which they sell the scrap metal. However, any building — including power stations — that use copper are subject to metal thieves.

A 2007 report by the US Department of Energy estimated that metal theft cost US businesses approximately $1bn a year. The report resulted in new laws and fines for metal thieves being implemented in 21 states.

Mr Holbrook said that the power station in Gainesville had been the target of numerous thefts in 2008, but noted that there have been few recent incidents. He said Monday's alleged attempted theft was the second time in two years that the station was targeted.

Another man died from electrocution while trying to steal $20 worth of copper from an Oregon substation in October.

"It's just pennies on the dollars for this type of stuff," Mr Holbrook said. "It's not worth it to put your life on the line."

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