UPDATE: PUD gave clearance before firefighter shocked by power line (w/video)

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 12, 2014 

— Benton Public Utility District officials say human error was a factor in an accident that sent a Benton County volunteer firefighter to the hospital.

Ty N. Schoenwald, 22, was shocked by a downed power line Wednesday while helping fight a small wildfire on Game Farm Road in Finley.

In a news conference Thursday morning, officials said two PUD linemen visually inspected the downed line and gave clearance for firefighters to enter the scene.

As it turned out, the line was still connected to the pole, resulting in Schoenwald being shocked through "indirect contact." Rescuers had to perform CPR and use a defibrillator to revive him, officials said.

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Officials are trying to determine how a volunteer firefighter was shocked by a downed power line Wednesday while battling a small Finley wildfire.

Ty N. Schoenwald, 22, was flown from a Kennewick hospital to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the incident, said Capt. Devin Helland, spokesman for Benton Fire District 1.

Schoenwald was stable condition Wednesday night and might be released as early as today.

A multi-agency team of local fire officials is investigating. “I don’t know if he came into contact with the wire or was shocked through the ground,” Helland told the Herald.

Schoenwald, a Washington State University student and volunteer with District 1, was part of a crew fighting the fire on Game Farm Road, Helland said. The power line was already on the ground when they arrived shortly before 8 a.m.

The downed line most likely sparked the fire, Helland said. Crews were able to put it out quickly, blocking off the nearby road and calling the Benton Public Utility District to deal with the power line.

PUD employees eventually fixed the line and were able to restore power to about 700 people, spokeswoman Karen Miller said.

Firefighters called an ambulance when Schoenwald was shocked, and he was taken by ambulance to Trios Health in Kennewick, Helland said.

Schoenwald was alert when the ambulance arrived and seemed to be in stable condition at Trios, Helland said. He had cuts from fighting the fire but no other major injuries.

Doctors sent Schoenwald to Seattle for further examination.

“When they got to Trios he was stable, laughing and talking,” Helland said. “For precautionary measures, everyone involved decided to send him via Medstar to Harborview.”

Doctors at Harborview put Schoenwald through a series of exams, including cardio and neurological tests, Helland said. Harborview staff told Helland that the results of the exams came back normal.

Fire district officials pitched in to rent a vehicle so Schoenwald’s family could drive to Seattle to be with him, Helland said. Schoenwald’s dad, Tim, is a captain who has been with the district as a firefighter and mechanic for 22 years.

Schoenwald is a lifelong Finley resident and a graduate of Kennewick High School. He joined the district’s resident fire program in November 2012, responding to calls with career firefighters around the clock. -- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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