January 19th, 2018

Woman falls down open manhole after ‘very rare occurrence’ in downtown Edmonton

By Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press on January 10, 2018.

Crews work near a manhole cover in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday January 10, 2018. A woman was taken to hospital early Wednesday after she fell down a manhole that had blown open in an electrical explosion in downtown Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – A woman was taken to hospital Wednesday after she fell down a manhole that had blown open in an electrical explosion – described as a “very rare occurrence” – in downtown Edmonton.

The fire department responded to a power outage and blast not far from the Alberta legislature around 7:30 a.m.

“There was an electrical vault explosion underground that blew a manhole cover off in that area,” said Maya Filipovic, a spokeswoman for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.

“Once we got there, we discovered that there was an injured civilian down in the vault and we proceeded to do a technical rescue on her. She had fallen about 12 feet into the vault.”

It took about 20 minutes for firefighters to use a harness to pull the woman out of the narrow passageway, where she was caught in some high-voltage wires.

“She was conscious, but there were some lower body injuries,” said Filipovic.

A spokesman for Emergency Medical Services said two seniors – both women – were assessed at the site. The woman who was rescued by firefighters was transported to hospital in non-life-threatening condition.

“One patient was only assessed and released on scene,” said Alex Campbell.

Utilities provider Epcor said they arrived around 8 a.m. to a reported power outage and found emergency responders at the site.

“What we know at this point is that there was a faulted switching cubicle – an enclosure that houses high-voltage power cables – and that released energy when it faulted and that moved the manhole lid of an adjacent enclosure,” said Mansur Bitar, director of distribution at Epcor.

The explosion knocked out electricity to customers in parts of the downtown and the nearby neighbourhood of Rossdale Flats. Power was back on for some within a few hours and crews were working to restore the rest by Wednesday afternoon.

Bitar said one building, Park Plaza, could be without power for up to 24 hours.

“They’ll be restored as quickly as we can and hopefully there’s no long lasting implication,” he said.

He said they are also repairing the equipment from the incident, which he described as a “very rare occurrence not just within Edmonton, but within the industry.”

They’re also conducting an internal review, which he expects will provide further information.

“Epcor’s priority is on safety,” said Bitar.

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety spokesman Trent Bancarz said they are also investigating the incident.

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