Dr James Kew: Firm fined £1m after runner electrocuted

Dr James Kew Image copyright GlaxoSmithKline
Image caption Dr James Kew was a keen hockey player and runner who had been out with a Saffron Walden running club

A power firm has been fined £1m after a man was electrocuted when he was hit by a fallen electricity cable while running in the countryside.

Dr James Kew, 41, died instantly when he ran into the low-hanging cable on a public footpath across a field in Newport, Essex, in 2012.

The fault was reported to UK Power Networks earlier that day, but the company did not cut the power.

It admitted breaching health and safety laws and must pay £153,000 costs.

Image caption The 11,000 volt cable had fallen down across the footpath
Image caption UK Power Networks said it had changed its policy as a result of the cable falling across the footpath

Dr Kew, of Ashdon, a director of biology at GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage, was out with members of the Saffron Striders running club on 24 July.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard he ran into the 11,000 volt cable, which at its lowest point was just 4ft 9in (1.5m) above the ground.

It had fallen because a porcelain insulator securing it to a wooden pole had disintegrated, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

An inquest into his death in 2014 heard a couple had reported the cable earlier that day and had put a makeshift pile of sticks around it.

The HSE said UK Power Networks was aware of the location and could have immediately "de-energised" the network, but instead sent out an engineer.

Donation urged

Mr Kew was killed 20 minutes before the engineer arrived.

UK Power Networks said it had since changed its policy so that when similar issues are reported, power is turned off before technicians are sent out.

Barry Hatton, the company's director of asset management, said: "Ever since the tragic accident our thoughts have been with Dr Kew's family and friends and [we] are acutely aware of its permanent consequences for them.

"Safety is out top priority... we urge anyone who sees equipment they feel may be dangerous to call us immediately on 0800 316 3105."

The HSE said people who had witnessed Dr Kew's death had suffered severe trauma and stress-related illness.

Dr Kew's father, Jeremy, said his death was a great loss to the family and to medical research.

"I think it's a tremendous pity that the network controller did not think to ask [the caller] to remain on site to warn off any members of the public who were coming down the footpath.

"Sadly, they did not have sufficient protocols in place to deal with the situation that evening."

He urged UK Power Networks to make a generous donation to Action Duchenne, a muscular dystrophy charity which funds research that Dr Kew had been involved in.

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