Electrical accident survivor shares frightening experience with high school students

More than 300 classrooms across B.C. are participating in BC Hydro's Electrical Safety Day. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Eric Phillips was 19 years old when he was severely burned after getting too close to a power line transformer on a night out with friends.

“I was trespassing with my friends late at night. I was hit with a 12,000-Volt charge from a main line.”

Phillips was wearing a Santa hat with a beer can attached to the pompom. Electricity arched from the line into the can, entering and then exiting his body.

“Electricity is an invisible force that surrounds us, and often doesn’t receive the respect it deserves,” Phillips said.

Multiple skin grafts were performed on Phillips’ arm, which was where the electricity exited his body. Exit wounds are typically larger than entry wounds. Justin Burgridge

Today was the first time Phillips shared his story with students at Burnaby North Secondary, but speaking with others about what happened to him was something he has wanted to do for the past 10 years.

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He says the accident was “a real smack upside the head.”

“I was pushing the limits as a 19-year old. We were naive to how volatile electricity is.”

BC Hydro’s Public Safety Lead Jonathan Knowles says there’s no better educator than someone who has had a first-hand experience with what electricity can do.

“If you want to provide a cautionary note to youth that the hazards of electricity are real, there’s nobody better than Eric to do that,” Knowles said.

BC Hydro works in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to provide electrical safety programs to schools.

More than 300 classrooms across B.C. are participating in BC Hydro’s Electrical Safety Day.

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Knowles says there are three words the public should keep in mind if they see a downed power line.

“Down, Danger, Dial. If you come across a down power line, always assume it’s live. It might not be buzzing or sparking, but make the assumption it’s live. Stay away – it’s a danger. Then dial 911, so that authorities can come and make it safe.”

“Stay back at least 10 metres.”

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