Man dies while hanging Christmas lights

A man hanging Christmas decorations in a redwood tree in East Palo Alto Saturday was killed instantly when a string of lights touched two high-tension power lines, according to officials.

Police received a call through a Spanish translator at about 12:20 p.m. reporting a man hanging in a tree at 2012 Euclid Ave., Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

The 23-year-old man was reportedly in a ladder stringing lights in trees for Page Mill Properties, which owns apartments in the area, Schapelhouman said.

The man reportedly threw the lights to reach higher into the tree when they touched two different legs of a high-tension power line, sending 12,000 kilovolts of electricity through the man's body.

Electricity apparently traveled through the man's arm and out through an area near his knee into the tree, Schapelhouman said.

Fire crews arrived to find the man hanging about 60 feet from the ground, apparently fused to the tree by electricity, and smoking from his feet, Schapelhouman said.

Firefighters could not immediately rescue the victim because the power lines had not been deactivated, Schapelhouman said.

The man hung from the tree until Pacific Gas and Electric Co. crews arrived at about 12:54 p.m. and turned off the power lines, Schapelhouman said.

Firefighters had the victim down from the tree at about 2 p.m. and the San Mateo County coroner's office pronounced him officially deceased, according to Schapelhouman.

The victim has been identified, but his name is not being released, according to the coroner's office.

"This is a young man and nobody wants this type of thing during the holidays. He was just trying to make things brighter in East Palo Alto," Schapelhouman said.

— Bay City News Service


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2007 at 11:26 am

What a horrible, tragic happening. His body fused to the tree? His feet were smoking? It's hard to even know what to say.

Leave it to Page Mill Properties to hire someone, probably on the cheap, who may not have known how to do this type of work safely. It'd be better if they could focus on making the units they own safe, rather than quick fixes outside to try to make them look cute.

Merry Christmas.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:09 pm

12,000 Kilovolts. Yeah right. Someone needs to check their units.

12,000 KiloVolts would be 12,000,000, or 12 MEGA volts. The tree would have long been a cinder just being near the lines.

What the mis-informed reporter meant to say was 12KV, or 12 KILO Volts.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:46 pm

My heart goes out to the family of the 23 year old worker and his family.

I remember the news earlier this week about Page Mill Properties raising the rents. I hope that Page Mill Properties take care of their employees better than they take care of their renters. The fear is that Page Mill Properties will not take responsibility for the loss of this man.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Hmmm... seems my comment calling for the firing of the hack journalist who wrote this was deleted. No problem, I'll just write it again.

The article included many unnecessary gory details. We don't need to know about smoking feet and adhesion to trees. Have some respect for the family and for the deceased! Look up the word tact if you have a dictionary.

Anyway, my thoughts go out to this young man and his family. May God rest his soul. Such a shame to lose a young man who was just hanging lights.

Those who are responsible should take responsibility.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2007 at 5:21 pm

I don't know anything about this, and am wondering, aren't these high voltage power lines insulated?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by V
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Yes, I agree with spare the gory details. We do not need to know all of that information. The whole incident was bad enough -- that poor young man, so young. He probably just didn't realize how close he was to danger. If the property management place instructed him to do that then they should be totally responsible for his death -- it's really a crime.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by We DO Need to Know
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2007 at 12:12 pm

While it was gory & horrific to read, I think it was important to know since Page Mill Properties is responsible for this young man's death.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

Yes the high voltage lines are insulated, with several stories of air. The fact is that PageMil doesn't want to hear reality & those who talk about it are squashed, in one case a gunman has been hired to stalk a tenant who has complained to the media (Tim Morgan vs. Chris Lund). Late last year PageMil laid off more than 4 dozen maintenance staff, as a guard there I was disciplined for reporting safety issues including a broken stairwell (large hole from missing brick on a step, 1838 W. Bayshore), open 55 gallon drums of hydraulic oil, motor oil, car batteries & other hazardous waste dumped on site & in doorways, broken fire detection equipment, smoke detectors beeping low battery warnings, missing smoke detectors, broken emergency exit signs, inoperable fire doors, exposed live electrical wiring at 2 feet off the ground (toddlers height?), swimming pools not meeting child safety fence requirements, an occupied apartment door with no doorknob nor deadbolt, entire buildings we had no access keys to allow our response if called.
PageMil has installed garage gates everwhere which don't open for pedestrians to get out in the case of a fire or other emergency...

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Draeger’s Los Altos eyes upgrades, expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,373 views

College Visit: Lehigh and Lafayette
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 4 comments | 1,673 views

Is Coffee a Date?
By Laura Stec | 18 comments | 1,444 views

"the Summit" (CompPlan): Forewarned is Forearmed
By Douglas Moran | 22 comments | 911 views

A quiet moment
By Sally Torbey | 8 comments | 673 views