Exclusive: Wife of power lineman killed in Spring Lake wants answers

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A worker died Thursday while on the job in Harnett County, and his wife wants answers. (WTVD)

Mitchell Williams was known for his upbeat spirit, his funny pronunciation of words, and his love for family, church, and music.

He also had a passion for being a power lineman. He dedicated himself to his profession for more than 20 years. However, it would ultimately lead to his death.

"All these years he been working, and nothing like this ever happen to him before," his wife, Glaceria, said on Friday.

Williams, 47, was killed Thursday morning in a work site electrocution. He was in a bucket and helping to move a power line in anticipation of NCDOT's widening project on Ray Road in Spring Lake.

The Sampson County man was employed by Aberdeen-based Lee Electrical Construction, the company contracted by South River Electric to complete the project. He'd just joined the company this year.

A South River supervisor said Williams re-energized a wire and was shocked by 7,200 volts. Glaceria said news reports had the most information she'd received about the accident, as she was never officially notified by her husband's company about his death.

"Prayer. Always prayer. I need that bad I know," she said. "And I want to know everything that went down. What happened? What caused all of this stuff? I want somebody to tell me something."

The couple had been together more than 30 years and had been married for more than 20 years. The high school sweethearts have three young adult children together.

Glaceria said her youngest daughter missed a call from her father around noon Thursday. When the girl called back there was no answer. They'd later learned Williams was killed around 11 a.m. and suspect the call was accidentally made during the transfer of his body from the bucket to the ground.

Glaceria said she found out about her husband's death through one of his former co-workers who had called to see if she'd heard. She had not, so she contacted a current co-worker's wife to confirm the news.

Hours later, Williams said she was offered condolences by a Lee Electrical employee at the hospital. That man couldn't offer her any details about her husband's death, citing the state investigation, she said.

Calls placed with Lee Electrical Construction on Thursday and Friday were not immediately returned.

"I just don't want one person to tell me this and then somebody to tell me this," Williams said. "I just want them to get the truth out. That's what I'm all about - truth."

THE INVESTIGATION

It will likely take months for the state to complete its investigation into what happened to Williams.

It's done under the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Division, or OSH. OSH is the state's equivalent to OSHA.

Per electrocution investigation protocol, an OSH investigator was at the site Thursday collecting physical evidence and photographs. The investigator also interviews employees, witnesses, and management. Their goal is to determine whether any safety and health standards were violated.

The investigation is limited to what occurred during the accident unless investigators feel otherwise after observing the site.

According to records, OSH has only responded to Lee Electrical sites four times in the past decade.

Two worker complaint-initiated inspections occurred in 2011 and 2014 but did not result in citations. The details behind those complaints were not immediately available from the state on Friday.

Another 2009 complaint was not inspected because no one was working the Chadbourn site when an inspector arrived.

A citation, along with a negotiated $3,375 fine, was issued in 2010 following a serious injury accident in Rocky Mount.

A summary of investigative notes describes a three-member crew working from aerial lifts 12.2 meters above ground. They were tying a power line conductor to a utility pole.

The summary notes two of the employees used tie wires to fasten the conductor to an insulator. One of those employees was not wearing rubber insulating sleeves and was shocked.

Like Williams' case, the shock came from 7,200 volts and that worker suffered second and third-degree burns along his upper arms and chest. A second worker tied to the conductor was injured by flash burns to his eyes.

If you ask those who practice the profession, they'll tell you the the job of a power lineman is dangerous and thankless. Multiple "Rest In Peace" Facebook posts noted the danger as fellow linemen mourned Williams Thursday night.

"You can do everything right, but there's always that one in a million," said one lineman, speaking to ABC11 over the phone.

MOVING FORWARD

Mitchell Williams was the breadwinner for his family.

"He's a good man. Good husband. Good father to his children," said Glaceria. "He helps anybody who needs help."

He loved what he did and the people he worked alongside each day.

"He talks about work, how he loves working with the people," his wife said. "He said when he do it, he do it good."

The family cannot make funeral arrangements until Williams' body is released. In the meantime, his wife said she has to figure out what arrangements he made at work in the case of a job-related death.

She said she feels somewhat lost.

"This whole week, everything was good, and then all of this other stuff," she said shaking her head. "I just really don't know."

Update: Lee Electrical Construction offered the following statement Saturday afternoon:

"The incident on Thursday left us in complete shock and heartbroken for Mitchell's family. Our first objective was to make sure the situation on the jobsite was stable and safe. We had numerous representatives on site, including an owner of the company, that were in the middle of coordinating with authorities to go notify Mrs. Williams when she called our job superintendent where she was then notified that it was her husband that had been involved in the tragic event.

Our job superintendent along with an owner of our company personally met with Mrs. Williams and other family members soon after at the hospital and offered condolences and support. Unfortunately, there were no immediate facts available other than that he had been electrocuted while working on an energized power line.

We are conducting our own investigation of the incident along with NC's OSH Division and we hope a report of the findings will be released soon to the family so that their questions are answered.

Once again, we are all terribly saddened by the loss of a great teammate and we offer our thoughts and prayers to his family."

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