Lineman dies while working on fault

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 29/10/2012
Stuart Kenning
Stuart Kenning

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The death of a Mossburn lineman at the weekend is the second time PowerNet workers have received major electric shocks while on the job in less than two years.

Stuart Andrew Kenning, 48, was electrocuted while working on a power line on a farm property at Waterloo near Mossburn on Saturday morning.

He was one of two Power Services line mechanics sent to repair a power line fault on the PowerNet-managed electricity network.

The other man was not injured.

In January last year, two linemen were injured when they were exposed to 33,000 volts at the Seaward Bush substation.

A massive 19,000-volt jolt of electricity passed through the body of veteran lineman Jeffery Berry, which left him missing a sizeable chunk of his right hand.

The then-Labour Department laid charges against PowerNet and its subsidiary Power Services for breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act, with each fined $36,000. Both companies were also ordered to pay thousands of dollars in reparation to the two men.

PowerNet business services manager Lyn Daly said yesterday the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Labour Group had been notified of Mr Kenning's death and its inspectors were investigating the incident. Both PowerNet and Power Services were also investigating.

She believed the repair on the line was "nothing out of the ordinary" and it was not known how the incident happened, she said.

Mrs Daly had not spoken to the other line mechanic who had been on the ground.

When asked whether the incident that led to Mr Kenning's death was similar to the electric shock Mr Berry received, she said it was too early to say whether Mr Kenning had been electrocuted.

"We just don't know if it was an electrocution."

The death of Mr Kenning, Mossburn's deputy fire chief, was a huge blow to the small community, who gathered to support his family yesterday.

His sister Fiona Kenning-Horsman said the family were "very cut up" about his death. "He was a wonderful brother, father, husband and son. Unfortunately, he died three months to the day our mother passed away," she said.

Mossburn volunteer fire brigade chief fire officer Lance Hellewell was one of the first people at the scene on Saturday morning.

"I happened to be close by. I saw my pager and had a funny feeling it was him because I knew he was on duty," he said.

His fellow firefighters were turned away from the scene, which was attended by ambulance and police. Mr Hellewell said it was a tough time for the Mossburn firefighters, who were "trucking away" with work as they went through the grieving process.

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"Stuart was a very likeable guy and most people in Mossburn knew him because he was in the fire service and was involved with the community and sports such as rugby," he said.

New Zealand Fire Service Southland area commander Bruce Stubbs said Mr Kenning had been in the brigade for 19 years and had been deputy for three of those years. His wife Joanne has been an administrator at the station for 16 years. They have two children, Rebecca, 22, and Chris, 19.

"Stuart was a great family man, a great firefighter and an excellent leader. His death was a big blow to the brigade, the family and Mossburn community," he said.

The brigade would support the family in every way they could and would discuss organising a memorial for Mr Kenning, Mr Stubbs said.

Mr Kenning was also in his fourth term as a member of the Mossburn Community Area Committee.

Committee chairman Jim Guyton said Mr Kenning did anything he was asked by the committee and could always be relied on.

- The Southland Times

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