Man survives 220,000-volt shock

Last updated 11:22 17/12/2013
Electric shock, Waikanae
KAY BLUNDELL/FAIRFAX NZ

AMAZING SURVIVAL: The site where a man survived a 220,000-volt shock while trimming tall trees in Waikanae Park.

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A man is in Hutt Hospital after getting shocked by a 220,000 volt power line while pruning trees.

The incident happened at Waikanae Park in Kapiti about 9.40am today, Senior Sergeant Marc Clausen said.

It was being treated as a workplace accident.

A Wellington Free Ambulance spokeswoman said the 20-year-old man was being taken to hospital in a moderate condition.

It was believed he had been pruning trees and hit a power line.

Sergeant Stu Lawrie said 220,000 volts went through the man, entering at his hand and exiting at his foot.

Both areas received burns.

The man was extremely lucky to survive, Mr Lawrie said.

A 29 year old air conditioning and refrigeration worker was knocked off his feet by an electric shock in a Wairarapa milking shed last month. A bolt of electricity went in one hand and out the other, leaving him with a severe burn to one hand and a head injury.

University of Canterbury physicist John Campbell said at the time that what made electric shocks deadly was when the current went through the heart rather than around the surface of the body. Where the current entered the body could also play a part.

In September, a West Coast ElectroNet linesman suffered a 66,000-volt shock and in April a linesman in Northland survived an 11,000-volt shock through the chest.

University of Canterbury physicist John Campbell said voltage was not what killed people. Instead it was the amount of electrical current that passed through the heart.

Voltage was similar to pressure in a water pipe, whereas amps were comparable to the speed of water going through it.

''It is the current that flows through the heart that does the damage. There is a peak amount that causes death. Above that people survive, but usually die about four days later of complications due to serious burns.''

It only took one-hundredth of an amp through the heart to stop it.

A standard one-bar electric heater had four amps, while a standard light bulb had one-tenth of an amp.

Electricity chose the path of least resistance through the body meaning survival came down to whether that path hit the heart.

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- The Dominion Post

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