Lineman suffers burns from electric shock near Eklutna power plant site

Zaz Hollander

A LifeMed Alaska helicopter on Wednesday medevacked a worker seriously injured by electric shock near the Matanuska Electric Association plant under construction at Eklutna, authorities said.

The man, a contracted lineman whose name and age were not available, was in the bucket of an elevated cherry-picker north of the plant site when his hand touched the lines, which were not charged but still carried electricity, said Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company Chief Virginia McMichael.

The man had an entrance wound in his hand and an exit wound somewhere on his chest, and he was conscious when responders arrived, McMichael said. Chugiak crews used six-wheelers to ferry LifeMed medics to the remote site.

The man was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center, and later to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He remained under observation in the intensive-care unit there on Thursday, though his prognosis appeared good, a Matanuska Electric spokeswoman said.

Electrical current moving through the body can cause damage that isn't immediately apparent, especially to the heart, so it's likely medical providers will monitor the worker for a few more days, MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey said

The injured worker was a journeyman lineman with Anchorage-based Northern Powerline Constructors Inc., the company contracted by MEA to tie the plant into the larger electrical transmission system. The line, part of the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project transmission system, is jointly owned by Anchorage Municipal Light & Power, Chugach Electric Association and Matanuska Electric, Estey said.

ML&P had shut down the lines for three days to allow the work to proceed, she said. But even de-energized lines can sometimes carry energy from other parts of the system.

The accident marks the second at the plant site this year, and the second under investigation by Alaska Occupational Safety and Health

A construction worker was critically injured in January after becoming pinned to a garage door by equipment. That investigation remains open, according to Dan Eckman, assistant chief of enforcement for the state occupational safety agency.

The agency sent an officer to the Eklutna accident site on Wednesday, Eckman said.

MEA is building the 170-megawatt plant on 70 acres near the Glenn Highway as part of its plan to become an independent power producer; the co-op for decades bought power from Chugach Electric.

The Eklutna plant will burn mostly natural gas, with ability to switch to diesel, according to a project description on the electric cooperative's website. MEA hopes to have the plant up and running by January.

Reach Zaz Hollander at or (907) 352-6705.