SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – The entire Village of Springville lost power Sunday afternoon after copper thieves sparked a blackout.
The daytime break-in to a power substation is the latest in about a half-dozen similar incidents throughout Western New York.
Last summer a man from Perry, New York died weeks after touching a charged line. He had reportedly climbed onto a live transformer. His partner in the copper theft was sentenced to state prison.
In Springville, the thief or thieves came close to meeting a tragic end, according to Kenneth Kostowniak, Springville’s Public Works Superintendent.
“They mistakenly cut a neutral ground from one of the relay switches which had about twenty-eight thousand volts of electricity flowing through it, which probably caused a pretty serious flash,” he said. He believes that’s when they fled the scene with about a hundred dollars worth of copper wire.
Springville Mayor William Krebs said “I don’t know who would break into a power station and risk their lives to steal some copper. It’s just a terrible thing.”
Erie County Sheriff’s investigators walked the perimeters and searched for any evidence that may have been left behind. So far are there is no word of any arrests.
The 1 p.m. blackout took villagers by surprise, especially after hours began to pass. Some areas were dark for four hours.
Employees at Main Street Pizza were worried they would lose a day’s pay. All the stored food and ingredients would have also been lost if the power had stayed off through the night.
Owner Joe Emerling said he had great faith in the village which owns and maintains its own power stations. However, he said “It’s an alarming situation because when you stop and think you can disable a village just simply by going into a substation. That makes you stop and think.”
Administrator Horner said things could have been worse. He pointed out that some residents require power for their health-related equipment. He said there were no reports of any emergencies attributable to the outage.
Springville resident Luke Sakura said his family left the house to take a walk. “We just didn’t watch football for the afternoon. But the Bills were off, so that was ok,” he said.