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2 Edison Workers Killed in Explosion

Tragedy: Victims were repairing transformer when accident happened. One body was left dangling for hours from pole.

April 01, 1997|MAYRAV SAAR | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A freak electrical explosion killed two Southern California Edison workers fixing a transformer Monday in the city of Industry, leaving a seared corpse dangling for hours from the power pole.

"People that have been here for 30 years say they've never seen such a thing before," said Clara Potes-Fellow, a Southern California Edison spokeswoman. "It's like a soldier dying in combat."

The dead workers were identified late Monday as Adel J. Boyadjian, 31, of La Verne, an electrical crew foreman who had worked for Southern California Edison for 11 years, and Steven F. Peralta Jr., 35, of Victorville, a lineman/splicer with 13 years with the company.

The body of one of the men remained atop the power pole for more than three hours because of potential danger from a still-smoldering fire inside the pole, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Henry Rodriguez said. Coroner's investigators also asked that the body not be immediately moved so they could assess how the worker died.

Even at dusk, the scene reeked of burned flesh. Cal/OSHA is investigating the deaths.

The incident began at midday when four Edison workers were called to the 200 block of North Baldwin Park Boulevard on a routine job to repair a damaged transformer, officials said. Businesses in the industrial area had lacked power for 45 minutes.

The workers finished the repairs about 1:30 p.m.

Sara Ariza said she was inside a conference room with co-workers at Mercado Latino, a food distribution company whose headquarters is a few feet behind the pole, when someone said, "Oh, the power's back on."

The explosion came about a minute later.

A line connected to the transformer toppled, sending sparks flying, setting a worker at the base of the pole on fire and igniting his Southern California Edison truck. The flame raced up the pole and engulfed another man, who was on top packing up his tools, Rodriguez said.

The other two workers were already on the ground and could only watch in horror as their colleagues burned to death. Authorities said they were in seclusion late Monday, deeply shaken.

Witnesses also were traumatized.

"It was such a big explosion, such a big fire. We started crying," Ariza said. "We ran outside because we thought our building was going to catch on fire."

"I have three to four [employees] that I might have to send to a psychologist tomorrow," said Maria Rodriguez, owner of Mercado Latino.

Added a tearful Helga Lotito, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electricians: "It's about as bad as they come."

"Linemen don't express fear," she said. "They talk about close calls. They talk about things that are funny in the field. But they don't talk about this."

Glancing at the bodies, Lotito added: "It tears you up inside. It makes my gut wrench."

Louis Ayala brought his 9-year-old son Louis III from El Monte to the site of the tragedy. The father peered through borrowed binoculars at the bodies, but would not let his son look through them.

Times staff writer Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this story.

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