Palo Alto utility worker dies after getting electrocuted while upgrading transformer

Donatus Okhomina was a U.S. Air Force veteran with two decades of experience

The city of Palo Alto Utilities lineman who died Saturday while upgrading a transformer in south Palo Alto was a U.S. Air Force veteran who had just started his job with the city this month, city staff said.

Donatus Okhomina was working on a five-person line crew near Covenant Presbyterian Church at 670 E. Meadow Drive on Saturday morning when he was electrocuted. Okhomina was taken to Stanford Hospital, where he died later in the day.

City staff declined to say exactly what happened, pending an official investigation by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). This was the Utilities Department's first work-related death in more than 30 years, according to the city's news release.

Cal/OSHA spokesman Frank Polizzi said on Monday the city alerted his agency on Saturday that an employee had been electrocuted after coming in contact with high-voltage power lines while in a manlift.

"Cal/OSHA is investigating this incident and other general workplace safety" in the city's utilities department, he said. Cal/OSHA has up to six months to conduct its investigation and issue corrections for any hazards it finds, he said.

On Monday, the city flew flags at City Hall and other municipal buildings at half-staff in tribute to Okhomina and adjourned the City Council meeting in his honor.

Mayor Eric Filseth also opened the council's regular meeting with a few words about the weekend incident.

"It's with great sadness that we mourn the loss of one of our own team members this evening," Filseth said, before holding a moment of silence for Okhomina.

Three city employees who were at the accident site on Monday morning declined to speak with the Weekly about the incident.

The city is conducting its own review of the incident and is offering counseling and support services to utilities staff members and their families, Meghan Horrigan-Taylor, the city's chief communications officer, said in an email to the Weekly on Wednesday.

"The review includes all aspects of the work-site incident including equipment used while the work was being performed. The work truck is part of this evaluation. As a result, the truck is not in service," she said in an email.

The Altec-brand truck is less than two years old.

The incident and the investigation are affecting the Utilities Department, Horrigan-Taylor said. There may be delays to some work, though the agency is responding to time-sensitive service calls.

Okhomina, a 42-year-old resident of Dixon, is survived by a wife and four daughters, ages 6 to 17. Though he has just started his position with the city, he had about 20 years of experience as a lineman. He had worked at Pacific Gas & Electric and at Sacramento Municipal before joining the city of Palo Alto, according to the city's news release. His position with the city was lineperson/cable splicer, Horrigan-Taylor said.

Okhomina was also a member of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, Local 1245, according to his LinkedIn account. Between July 1996 and July 2000, he worked as a distribution lineman in the Civil Engineering 60th Squadron of the United States Air Force.

A GoFundMe account organized by utilities managers was set up to support Okomina's family and can be found here. As of Thursday morning, the page had raised more than $86,500.


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61 people like this
Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 17, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Lindsay Joye is a registered user.

I offer my deepest condolences to Mr. Okhomina’s family and friends and to my former colleagues at the City of Palo Alto.

I was honored to work for Utilities for over 30 years with such dedicated and talented colleagues who keep our essential services working for our community.

14 people like this
Posted by May his memory be a blessing.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 18, 2019 at 12:20 pm

May his memory be a blessing to all those whose lives he touched. I am very sorry too hear this sad news.

19 people like this
Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 18, 2019 at 12:29 pm

JB is a registered user.

I'm so sorry to hear about this. My condolences to his family and friends. What a tragedy.

16 people like this
Posted by Jim Phillips
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 18, 2019 at 12:43 pm

This is a terrible tragedy. I'm so sorry this happened. My condolences go to his family, co-workers and friends.

2 people like this
Posted by Nina
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 18, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Such a tragedy- my condolences to the family, May he Rest In Peace

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