Smoke and burns kill victim of fallen power line
The Department of the Medical Examiner determined that a 66-year-old Wahiawa man died from smoke inhalation and thermal burns due to a car fire and electrocution.
Eugenio Fernandez died at Straub Clinic & Hospital late Wednesday night after he was electrocuted from a live wire that fell from a wooden pole and struck the Toyota minivan he was in at Whitmore Village. The manner of death was classified as an accident.
The minivan was parked next to 1142 Aheahe Ave., the residence where his wife, Pearla Fernandez, lives. Area residents said Fernandez lived in the minivan.
Firefighters arrived at 10:05 a.m. after they received a call reporting an auto fire with a downed power line carrying 7,200 volts.
Explosions and screams for help by Fernandez were heard by area residents who saw the van engulfed in black smoke before firefighters arrived. He was taken to Straub in critical condition and later died.
First Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. William Goodhue Jr. said Fernandez suffered from third-degree burns to approximately 90 percent of his body. The burns were caused by the heat generated by the fire. The fire, in turn, was caused by the high current by the power line, Goodhue said. Black soot was also in Fernandez's airways.
Fernandez's family members declined to speak to the media yesterday.
Troy Pace, described to be in his late 30s to early 40s, attempted to open the driver's door to rescue Fernandez. But as soon as he grabbed the handle, he began to convulse and collapsed to the ground. He was also taken to Straub in critical condition and later upgraded to serious condition.
A hospital spokeswoman said Pace was in serious but stable condition yesterday. Pace suffered internal electrical burns as well as external burns to his hands, arms and legs. He remains in the hospital's burn unit.
In a written statement, Hawaiian Electric Co. expressed its condolences to the Fernandez family. "This was a tragic incident, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones," company officials said. Sympathies were also extended to Pace. "We commend his desire to help someone in need and deeply regret he was injured in the process," officials said.
HECO is continuing its investigation into what caused the line to fall. A preliminary investigation conducted Wednesday indicated that there was a problem with a ceramic insulator on the power line.
Fire investigators are continuing to interview witnesses to determine the fire's cause.