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Wiring problem may have caused electrocution

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
May 9, 2002
Days after investigating the electrocution of a Meridian man, officials say old electrical wiring in his home may have caused his death.
Martin Jack, an electrical inspector for the city of Meridian who inspected the house where 37-year-old Anthony Bartlett died on Saturday, said Wednesday there was a short in the air conditioning unit.
Bartlett, of 3416 50th St. in Meridian, died when he was hit by 240 volts of electricity while working in the house's attic to lower a television cable to a room below. Officials say he was leaning over an air conditioning duct when the compressor turned on. The shock resulted in his electrocution, officials said.
Improper wiring
After reviewing the situation in detail, Jack, an experienced inspector who has checked numerous Meridian homes and businesses, said proper wiring could have produced a much different result.
The incident has some officials questioning what could have been done to prevent it. But some say there is not much that could have been done other than having the home checked by an electrician.
Lauderdale County Coroner Marl Cobler said Wednesday that Bartlett died because "his heart stopped from the electrical shock."
Safety precautions
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 200 electrocutions a year. Scott Wolfson, a spokesman, said the many such incidents involve household wiring.
In 1998, Wolfson said, 19 people nationwide died from electrocution involving air conditioning units.
This month is also "National Electrical Safety Month," Wolfson said.
Mississippi Power Co. spokesman Kurt Brautigam, whose company provides power to Meridian, including the Bartlett home, said electricity has become "such an everyday thing that we forget how powerful and dangerous it can be."
When dealing with electricity, Brautigam said it's important to keep a few rules in mind:
Fuses or circuit breakers "blow" when there's an overload, short or faulty appliance. The problem should be repaired before power is restored;
Electricity will go to the ground through any good conductor, including metal, liquid or a human being. Stay out of its path. Never touch appliances or wires with wet hands or feet.
Even though Jack said that Bartlett's death was a "freak accident," he said it proves how important a house's electrical grounding is for safety.
Residents who want to verify that an electrician is properly licensed, should call the City of Meridian Inspection Division at 485-1900.

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