CHICAGO (CBS) — There are sidewalks across the Chicagoland
area that are electrified. If you touch the wrong light
pole, or step on a sidewalk metal junction box, you can be
City officials are not testing to find these dangers, so 2
Investigator Dave Savini went in search of these hot spots.
Joined by officials from Power Survey Co., a New
Jersey-based business that travels the country using special
equipment to detect stray voltage, they found light poles
that were electrified. One was in the South Loop, at the
corner of Jackson and Federal.
“That’s full line voltage on this pole,” Dave Kalokitis,
Power Survey’s chief engineer, said.
Stray voltage can run through metal grates in sidewalks and
sewer covers. CBS 2 found 116 volts coming off a light pole
just a block away from Mayor Daley’s house.
A loose wire inside a junction box, causing stray voltage,
is being blamed for the death of 8-year-old Camden Belfield.
He was at a school ball field near Peoria, Ill., when he
touched a pole while playing tag. He did not know it was
Camden was on life support before dying the next day.
“It rips your heart out,” the boy’s mother, Annette Reese,
said. “You pray for God to take you and leave him.”
Other victims include a 14-year-old from Baltimore and
9-year-old from Ohio, each killed by touching metal fences.
Electrocutions also have happened in Las Vegas, Miami and
A 30-year old woman was electrocuted when she stepped on a
sidewalk junction box in New York. Her death led to
mandatory stray voltage testing there. Tom Catanese and his
business, Power Survey Co., does the testing.
“We’ve done this testing in 60 cities across the country,
and have found these problems in all of them,” he said.
While testing in Chicago with CBS 2, Power Survey found 40
dangerous locations in just a few hours. The locations could
be deadly if, for example, someone touches the pole while
also stepping in water.
“It’s pretty clear the infrastructure is old,” Catanese
said. “It’s aging and it’s failing.”
Broken or frayed wires and decaying insulation often are to
High-volt stray voltage was found across from a school that
was just blocks from President Obama’s Chicago house. A
light pole outside Wrigley Field had 117 volts; Savini put a
sheet of paper near the pole and it caught on fire.
Aside from human victims, dogs have been killed, too. One
belonged to Matthew Mock.
Mock’s former wife was walking their dog Smokey in Grant
Park when they stepped on a metal junction box that had a
loose wire causing it to become electrified. The dog got so
spooked while being electrocuted, he mauled her hand and leg
as she tried to save him.
As CBS 2 identified the hot spots, city crews quickly
responded to fix the problem. But the Band Aid approach is
not good enough for Annette Reese.
“I vowed that his death would not be in vain, that I would
try to make it worth something and to help someone else from
this ever happening,” she said.
Catanese says there is likely thousands of stray voltage
dangers in Chicago.
A Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman says the
city agency has been installing corrosion-resistant poles
and, because of our investigation, it is speeding up
for 3 months, absolutely
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