Update Thursday 12:30 p.m. According to the report received by Marc Mortensen, assistant to the St. George City manager, crews replaced a pad mounted switch box to restore service to more than 500 customers that were affected. All services were restored by 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, and the costs associated with the crashremain unchanged.
ST. GEORGE — A two-vehicle crash on East Riverside Drive Wednesday evening left both vehicles inoperable, heavily damaged a transformer box, and plunged many residents into the dark.
Emergency repair crews worked for hours under chilly conditions to restore power to customers.
Just after 6:30 p.m. a call came into the St. George Communications Center reporting the collision near 2450 E. Riverside Drive that also damaged a transformer box.
Upon arrival officers and firefighters found a white 2008 Toyota RAV4 in the middle of East Riverside Drive and a gray 1998 Toyota Camry in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel parking lot, located at 2434 E. Riverside Drive, Officer Lona Trombley, St. George Police public information officer said.
The two occupants in the Rav4 were checked for injuries, along with the woman driving the Camry, and no serious injuries were reported, Trombley said.
Officers found a severely damaged transformer box lying on its side about three feet from its base after being knocked over from the force of the collision. Twisted metal and wiring from the unit was scattered on the ground.
One witness at the scene ran out of his house after hearing the crash, which he said sounded like a metal trash can being dragged across concrete. Just as he reached the corner the man said he observed kids playing near the transformer box that was now damaged.
The man said he quickly warned the children to move away and a few seconds later a large arc flash exploded from the box, sending a shower of sparks into the air.
Information obtained from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines an arc flash as a phenomenon where a flashover of electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another, or to ground, and the results are often violent, particularly when a person is in close proximity to the flash. Serious injury and even death can occur.
Several homes and buildings, including the LDS chapel, were without power immediately after the crash, particularly in the area southwest of South Riverside Drive and South 2450 East.
A St. George Energy Services work crew was immediately dispatched to the scene to assess the damage and to begin repairs on the transformer box where live lines were left exposed.
Marc Mortensen, assistant to the St. George City manager, said replacement boxes are kept in stock at the St. George Utilities yard. Depending on the extent of the damage, crews could replace the box and all lines going into it. If the incident damaged a main hub, or a central transformer, then the repair operation could be more extensive.
“It’s really too hard to say at this point,” Mortensen said. “We will know more when the repairs are complete and the detailed work report is submitted showing what was repaired or replaced, and the work involved.”
After speaking with both drivers and witnesses, officers determined that the 23-year-old woman driving the Camry failed to stop at a stop sign. She was heading south on South 2450 East and as she approached a stop sign at East Riverside Drive she drove into oncoming traffic.
The man driving the Rav4 was heading west on East Riverside Drive just as the Camry came into his lane of travel. He was unable to avoid the crash and T-boned the Camry on the drivers side. The impact sent both cars spinning.
The Camry spun around once and then continued in a southwest direction before it jumped the curb, missed the light pole, crashed into the transformer box, and landed in the parking lot of the chapel several yards from the point of impact.
“The Rav4 hit the Camry at 35 miles per hour, but fortunately all occupants were wearing their seat belts when the crash occurred,” Trombley said.
Information submitted to Trombley shortly after the crash estimated damages to the transformer box, lines and repair costs to be around $30,000.
Repairs and replacement costs can be high with this type of damage, Mortensen said, particularly since the box was uprooted from its foundation and lines were damaged and exposed.
“Sometimes everything in the box must be replaced, so once we are able to assess the total costs involved, including the time spent and replacement or repair costs, then we can determine how those costs will be recovered,” he said.
Both vehicles were extensively damaged and towed from the scene. The woman driving the Camry was cited for failing to stop at a stop sign.
Work crews estimated it would take several hours at least for power to be restored.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or first responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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