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Blackout Suit Takes Aim at Bridge Contractor

Friday, August 4, 2017

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The contractor responsible for cutting power to thousands of homes and businesses on two islands in North Carolina is being sued by residents in a court action filed before the lights even came back on in many communities.

A class action suit was filed Monday (July 31), alleging that Denver-based PCL Construction, the lead contractor on the Bonner Bridge replacement, was negligent when its crew drove a steel casing into a set of three cables that brought power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, in the state’s tourism-heavy Outer Banks region. More than 50,000 visitors were evacuated from the islands Friday and Saturday after the incident, which occurred early Thursday (July 27).

Overhead line construction
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative

Crews have installed a new overhead transmission line to bring power to the two islands that lost electricity when a bridge construction crew severed underground cables.

According to USA Today, the suit, filed by law firm McCune Wright Arevalo, argues that PCL had “a duty to exercise reasonable care during construction so as not to cause any interference with the vacation rental plans of individuals and families in the affected area.” Two of the three cables were damaged in the incident.

PCL has not commented on the lawsuit, but in a series of statements issued on Twitter in the days after the mishap, the company apologized “for the inconvenience this has caused to tourists, residents and local businesses,” and said it was “doing everything we can to restore power quickly and safely.”

Restoring Power

Limited electricity has been available via temporary generators set up on Hatteras since the incident.

Crews originally began working to both splice the severed underground cables and build a new overhead transmission line to bring power to the islands. Wednesday, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said it had determined that the overhead line would be the quickest way to restore power, and as of Thursday (Aug. 3), the company expected to bring power back to the islands by Saturday.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Construction; Contractors; Health and safety

Comment from James Plaatsman, (8/4/2017, 8:48 AM)

I wonder if the electrical utilitiy was marked properly by the locating service? Perhaps this will encourage funding for a secondary feed to the area south of the Bonner Bridge. Efforts in the past have been squashed because of costs.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/4/2017, 11:14 AM)

James, sometimes it takes the "what if" scenarios to motivate change. Over the last 10 years, wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta have fuelled the discussions about additional roads into the community. Several years of being cut off by wildfires and then the difficulty of getting 80,000 people out during last year's evacuation have highlighted the transportation bottleneck there. Right now, unless winter roads are open to the North, there is only one highway actually coming into the city (with another that branches off some 20 minutes (30 km) to the south. Necessity is the moth of invention, they say....too bad we keep learning about back-ups and redundancy from hindsight, rather than planning ahead.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/4/2017, 11:15 AM)

Gah! I shouldn't type before my morning coffee ;) You get my meaning, I'm sure.

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