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Driver injured in crash into power pole, trapped by downed wires in Rancho Santa Fe

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A car crashed into and knocked down a power pole Thursday evening, Jan. 31, in Rancho Santa Fe. The downed power lines trapped the seriously injured driver and another motorist for about 45 minutes until SDG&E crews could ensure the wires posed no danger.
(Courtesy of OnScene TV)

A single-vehicle crash Thursday evening, Jan. 31, in Rancho Santa Fe seriously injured one man and knocked down a power pole, leaving the injured driver and another motorist trapped for about 45 minutes over fears that downed power lines were energized, authorities said.

The crash happened at 4:23 p.m. at El Camino Real near Via Gaviota, Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District spokeswoman Julie Taber said. Only one car was involved in the crash, but a woman was also trapped when the power lines fell on her SUV.

“Anytime we have downed lines, we assume they are charged,” Taber said.

Wes Jones, a spokesman with San Diego Gas & Electric, said the downed lines were not energized, but that it’s best to always assume they are, like the Rancho Santa Fe firefighters did.

SDG&E crews were already on their way to the site, after receiving notice of a power outage in the area, when emergency responders requested their help to remove the downed wires from the vehicles, Jones said.

Once the SDG&E crews ensured the scene was safe, firefighters were immediately ready to free the injured driver from his crashed car, Taber said. He was taken to a hospital with serious to critical injuries.

There was no immediate information about what caused the car to strike the power line, but the California Highway Patrol was investigating the crash, Taber said.

Power pole
Rancho Santa Fe firefighters wait to approach an SUV with a power line partially wrapped around it on Thursday, Jan. 31. The crews could not get close to the scene until SDG&E workers ensured it was safe. The SUV was not involved in the crash that knocked down the power pole. Courtesy of OnScene TV

The downed wires knocked out power to 322 customers in the area, according to Jones. By about 6:30 p.m., energy was restored to about a third of the customers; the remaining 207 customers were expected to have their power restored by about 9 p.m.

Any time there is unexpected contact made with power equipment — like when a crash knocks down a pole, or when a mylar balloon hits the wires — the system is designed to automatically de-energize the wires, Jones said. But still, first responders and members of the public should treat all downed lines with extreme caution and assume the wires are energized and dangerous.

--Alex Riggins is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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