CUC linesman died after fall

The manager of the lines department at Caribbean Utilities Company died after he fell from a pole on West Bay Road in 2004.

Gerald John McRobb, 61, suffered severe head injury and massive loss of blood, according to an autopsy performed by Dr. Nadia Williams.

At an inquest held on 19 July 2006, a Coroner’s Jury heard details of the incident and returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Queen’s Coroner Nova Hall asked government pathologist Dr. John Heidingsfelder to go through Dr. Williams’ report to clarify any technical terms for the jury.

The first witness was Thomas George Ebanks, industrial electrician with CUC. He told the court that Mr. McRobb had worked at CUC from January 2000.

On the night of the incident Mr. Ebanks got a call that two feeders were off on West Bay Road. He went to the CUC West Bay sub-station and looked at the equipment outside.

There was a lightning storm that night and it was rainy. The bad weather caused the feeders to trip out, which resulted in a power cut, Mr. Ebanks explained. It affected the entire West Bay district and West Bay Road.

Mr. Ebanks located the fault at a specific pole. Then Mr. McRobb arrived and they used the light on his truck to check out the fault.

Mr. Ebanks at first thought the pole was on fire, but what he saw turned out to be red reflector tape. His statement explained the technical aspects of the fault, which Mr. McRobb confirmed.

A supervisor they were in contact with asked if they needed a bucket truck to assist in opening switches on the pole. Mr. Ebanks said they did need it and the supervisor was to inform another worker.

Mr. McRobb decided he would climb the pole and open the switches. He liked to climb; he was accustomed to do it and did it in Canada before coming to Cayman. Mr. Ebanks said he never suggested it – he told Mr. McRobb to wait for the bucket truck.

Mr. McRobb put on his belt and spurs and told Mr. Ebanks to get the hot stick – a retractable fibreglass 30-foot pole used to open and close switches.

He climbed the pole with the stick and opened two switches. Then he asked Mr. Ebanks to move his truck and reposition the light toward the other switches.

After Mr. McRobb repositioned himself and worked on the other switches, Mr. Ebanks heard the hot stick hit something on the pole structure. He looked up and saw Mr. McRobb falling backwards. He ran, thinking he could break the fall, but Mr. McRobb hit the concrete sidewalk head first.

Mr. Ebanks, who is trained in CPR, moved the injured man’s head to clear his air passage. He also removed the strap from around the pole to free Mr. McRobb’s legs and straighten them out. Then he ran to the West Bay Fire Station nearby to call for help.

It was not raining at the time and the lightning storm had ceased when Mr. McRobb climbed the pole.

Mr. Ebanks’ impression was that something happened to Mr. McRobb on the pole to cause him to fall backward or lose his balance. The pole and all the power lines were de-energised at the time, so that could not have been the reason, he said.

Fire Officer Mitchell Connor added details about the weather and the assistance given by fire officers after Mr. McRobb fell. At first he thought that Mr. McRobb had been electrocuted, but he observed no burns.

The police officer investigating the matter told the court that the incident occurred on the night of 4-5 July 2004 and he recorded statements from the various witnesses. The statements were kept at West Bay Police station and the file was destroyed during the events of Hurricane Ivan two months later.

After Ivan there were other major inquiries and investigations in West Bay, including a couple of capital offences. That was why there was a long break between the event and the officer picking back up the inquiry. Statements from witnesses therefore were dated around July-September 2005.

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