Tragedy Linked to Duke Energy

Young man dies from electrocution in Indiana backyard

The phrase “in your own backyard” is often attributed to fearsome dangers, risks, or trends that occur to close to home for one’s comfort. In the case of Chandler Loehmann, a 22-year old from southern Vigo County, Indiana, his family’s own backyard was the source of danger. Loehmann died July 2 from electrocution after trying to save his German Shepherd from the same fate. The dog was reportedly tied to a tree interwoven with low-hanging power lines when he began to get electrocuted. Loehmann intervened, and was killed by electrical shock, Jada Huddleston of WTHI-TV News 10 of Terre Haute reported July 6. He had just gotten married in January.

Loehmann’s family is looking to Duke Energy, operator of the power lines, for answers. Interviewed by Huddleston, the parents said they had previously called more than once to register complaints about the exact low-hanging power lines that caused their son’s death. They equally expressed concern that it could happen to others.

News 10, upon inquiring with Duke Energy, received a statement that reads:

“This is a tragic loss, and our deepest sympathies go to Mr. Loehmann’s family. We are conducting a detailed investigation of what occurred.”

Crushing reminders of electrical safety come to us every so often. They are part of the job for those who work closely with electrical machinery. But it’s fair to say they should not pose an inordinate risk to a young adult and his dog in their own backyard. While utilities quite often have massive service ranges, combined with undermanned workforces that can make preventative maintenance and effective safety monitoring difficult, the frequency of these incidents seems too often not to be alarming.

The issue is compounded by repeated findings of corporate irresponsibility from utilities. Such wrongdoings were uncovered in the Pacific Gas & Electric case in California, where negligence and oversight could have prevented wildfires that caused the deaths of nearly 100 residents. Duke Energy, meanwhile, is not exempt from corporate scrutiny; the utility service provider has fought legal battles over coal-ash pollution and withholding of information over the past decade. A major coal ash release in 2014 brought national media and a federal investigation into the picture. With a market value of around 64.9 billion US dollars, the North Carolina-based Duke was ranked third in 2020. It merged with Progress Energy in 2012.

Vigo County is southwest of Indianapolis near the Illinois border and contains Terre Haute, home to Indiana State University. You can read a heartfelt obituary from those who knew Chandler here.

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