Officials investigating ice bucket challenge mishap that left firefighters hospitalized

August 22, 2014
Two Kentucky firefighters were seriously injured after their fire truck’s ladder made contact with power lines. The firefighters were helping band students at Campbellsville University complete their version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Reuters)

The inescapably viral “ice bucket challenge” for ALS research took a turn for the tragic on Thursday in Kentucky, where four firefighters were injured — two of them seriously — when the ladder they were using to douse students for the challenge got too close to a power line.

Now, officials are investigating whether the power lines were in compliance with the latest regulations that require them to be high up and away from other structures, including trees and buildings, according to WTVQ.

Two of the firefighters — Tony Grider, 41, and Simon A. Quinn, 22 — were airlifted to the University of Louisville Hospital, according to WHAS-TV. Grider is in critical condition and Quinn is in fair condition. Both remained hospitalized on Friday, Reuters said.

The firefighters had been using the ladder’s bucket to spray water on the Campbellsville University marching band. (It’s unclear if any actual ice was involved.) The challenge had been successfully completed and the ladder was moving when the power line– with 69,000 volts of electricity flowing through it –shocked the firefighters. The power line is reportedly operated by Kentucky Utilities.

“We just heard a loud noise, a boom, you know, and the lights went out,” Raven Barnett, who was at the scene, told WLKY. “At that point I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s dead or something.’ ”

Being within three or four feet of a high-voltage line can cause the line’s energy to arc into another object, Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette told WLKY. The firefighters in the bucket of the ladder did not come into contact with the line. Two others who tried to climb the ladder to help Grider and Quinn suffered minor injuries when the electricity traveled down the ladder.

Power subsequently went out in the surrounding area, affecting about 4,500 customers, according to WAVE3 News.

Steve Marrs, 37, and Alex Johnson, 28 — the two firefighters who were injured on the ladder — were treated and released from the hospital. No students were injured.

[This post has been updated.]

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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