Arlington County employee electrocuted, another injured

James Bea, 59, was a 24-year employee of the county.
James Bea, 59, was a 24-year employee of the county. (Courtesy Of Arlington County - Courtesy Of Arlington County)
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By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Arlington County employee was electrocuted and another severely injured Wednesday morning as they were removing a set of temporary lights after working through the night to repair a two-day-old water main break.

James Bea, 59, an Arlington resident and a 24-year employee of the county, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the accident at 8:40 a.m. at Old Glebe and North Glebe roads. He had worked overnight in a trench repairing the main and was about to go home when he was killed.

The injured worker, whose name was not released, was in critical condition after suffering electrical burns.

Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier said the county is grieving and called the incident "tragic."

Officials said the accident happened when the workers came into contact with a power line, but further details were unavailable. The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Arlington police are investigating the accident.

County crews are working to repair the main and said water pressure might be low in the northern part of the county until it is fixed. They urge residents to take short showers, delay doing laundry and generally conserve water over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Both Bea and the injured man worked for the county's Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau in the Department of Environmental Services.

Bea, who had a wife, a child and grandchildren, was a dedicated worker who considered his crew "another element to his family," said Robert Griffin, director of the county's Department of Environmental Services.

He said loyal county employees such as Bea are "generally unrecognized for their work" by the public.

"They work through the night in conditions many people would call deplorable," said Griffin, who was holding back tears at an afternoon news conference. "When you are with your family on Thanksgiving, remember the people who are providing services who you normally don't think of. This is a reminder of how dangerous the job can be."

Power was cut to about 1,000 homes in the area after the accident but was restored hours later. Traffic in the area was also restricted Wednesday.

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