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Alberta man recounts near-fatal encounter with power line as incidents continue to rise

Click to play video 'Southern Alberta man speaks about near-fatal encounter with power line as incidents continue to rise' Southern Alberta man speaks about near-fatal encounter with power line as incidents continue to rise
WATCH ABOVE: We've all heard the messages about the dangers of power lines, but according to one of Alberta's biggest electricity companies, accidents are still common. A southern Alberta man is speaking about his near-death encounter with a power line and explains why he believes safety must be top of mind. Taz Dhaliwal has his story.

Lorne Jackson knows all too well about the dangers of power lines after having suffered a terrible accident 15 years ago, when he came into close contact with one.

The southern Alberta man was plowing snowy and icy roads in his grader near Burmis, Alta., after a snowstorm in February 2005, when he slid off the road.

Jackson crashed into a hydro pole, and a power line landed on his machine.

“In the process of turning around, I got over the edge of the road, with the back of the grader and I slid into a power pole, it came down on top of the machine,” Jackson recounted.

Read more: Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines

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He says he planned to stay inside the machine until help arrived remembering what he learned during safety training sessions, however, nobody was around and it didn’t look like anyone would be coming by anytime soon.

“I’m watching the front tires of the grader start smoking, there were large chunks of rubber flying in the air and it freaked me out,” Jackson said.

“I knew there was a danger outside if I jumped, but I made a split-second decision to do that,” he added.

Jackson said he remembered from his training that if one has to get up from their machine after contact with a power line, they should keep their feet together and slowly shuffle away. With his grader at an angle, that wasn’t possible, so he jumped instead.

Afterward, Jackson said all he remembered next was ending up 40 to 50 feet away from the grader.

He tried to get help, but couldn’t see anyone in sight since he was in a very low traffic rural area.

Jackson said he tried to get up and take a few steps but crashed right back down headfirst into the snow and rocks.

He then crawled using his knees and chest for about 45 minutes until finally reaching a farmhouse.

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Read more: SaskPower urges farmers to exercise caution during harvest

“I went through a couple of barbed-wire fences, which I found to be really nasty because I got hung up on those,” Jackson recalled.

“My only thought was my wife and kids, getting home to them.”

“I kept saying their names as loud as I could and looking upward. I’m not a go-to-church kind of guy — I know there’s a higher power of some kind and I just prayed,” Jackson added.

After paramedics were called to the farmhouse, Jackson was transported by STARS to a hospital in Calgary.

In hospital, he spent several days unconscious. He says the doctors and nurses were astonished when he awoke, and that he made it through the shock and pain his body endured.

They said he beat the odds of surviving.

Both of Jackson’s legs had to be amputated below the knee, his arms were badly burnt so he needed skin grafts, and he had a hole the size of a golf ball on the left side of his face.

Click to play video 'Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines citing safety reasons' Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines citing safety reasons
Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines citing safety reasons

Recently, FortisAlberta says there’s been an ‘increase’ in incidents involving both overhead and underground power lines in Alberta.

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In 2016, 231 cases of contact with power lines were recorded and in 2019, that number significantly rose to 365.

“Look, locate, and live — by look, that means looks above,” said Mona Bartsoff, a communications advisor for FortisAlberta.

“This season, and in this year in particular, we’ve been seeing a lot of homeowners… making a lot of [home renovations]; please call and get a locater done, call click before you dig,” she said as she listed advice for residents all over Alberta.

Read more: Downed power lines blamed for Winnipeg fires

After several long and painful years of recovery and many surgeries, Jackson now spends his time speaking at seminars and schools about the importance of power line safety.

Jackson says in terms of prevention for incidents involving power lines, he’d like to see more signage in order to raise awareness about the fatal dangers of coming into direct contact with electrical lines.

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He says many pipelines have signage on them and suggests it’s something big electrical companies should consider.

Jackson adds that implementing barriers around power lines would also prevent accidents.

He says many large municipalities have barriers around power lines and that it’s something rural communities could largely benefit from, especially if those barriers can help save lives and prevent serious injuries from occurring.

Despite the years that have passed, Jackson says he experiences PTSD and still feels phantom pain in his legs sometimes, such as muscle cramps.

He says the immense support he receives from his loving family and community members have helped him along in his journey.

Jackson also serves as a councillor in the town of Pincher Creek, a position he’s held for the past decade.