22-year-old apprentice lineworker dies restoring power after storm, Ohio company says

A 22-year-old apprentice lineworker was killed in an accident while working to restore power after a major winter storm, an Ohio electric company said.

Blake Rodgers was working outside of Pedro in Lawrence County at around 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 23 when he was killed in an “electrical contact incident,” Buckeye Rural Cooperative, an electric utility provider in Gallipolis, wrote on Facebook.

The company did not provide further details about the incident. The utility provider was working with contract crews to help with power restoration efforts in the area while employees coped with Rodgers’ loss.

“The safety of our field workers is always our number one priority, especially when working in such hazardous conditions,” the provider wrote.

‘You were my greatest gift’

Friends and family members mourned Rodgers on Facebook.

His mother, Brandie Hale, wrote that she had seen her son on Dec. 21 and tried to give him his Christmas presents early, but that he didn’t take them because he told her he would be there on Christmas day.

“I loved everything about Christmas until now,” she wrote. “Now it will be something that I forever dread because it will be a constant reminder of the days of losing you.”

Hale wrote that Rodgers was her “greatest gift.”

“Hug your kids a little tighter,” she wrote. “Take ALL the pictures and videos, even if they complain about it.”

Hale did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

One of Rodgers’s former teachers wrote that she remembered him as a “sweet, energetic, ornery 2nd grader.”

“I am so very proud of you, Blake,” wrote Billie Shepard. “You are a Hero.”

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative wrote on Dec. 25 that it would fly the flag at its facility at half-staff in honor of Rodgers.

Pedro is located in the southeastern part of Ohio about 140 miles east of Cincinnati.

The storm

A winter storm struck Ohio in the days leading up to Christmas, bringing subzero temperatures, strong wind gusts and dangerous travel conditions, according to the National Weather Service.

“Power outages are on the increase this morning as winds are slowly increasing,” the National Weather Service station in Wilmington, Ohio, tweeted on Dec. 23. “This could rapidly become a dangerous situation for those living in poorly insulated structures given wind and subzero temps.”

On Dec. 23 at 7:45 a.m., Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative, wrote on Facebook that 133 of its members were without power. On Dec. 24 at 9:05 a.m., 590 members had no power, according to the provider. Nearly 20,000 outages were reported across the northeastern part of the state on Dec. 23, according to WJW.

At least 48 people have died across the U.S. during the extreme winter weather that impacted parts of the country over Christmas weekend, according the USA Today. Around 25 of the deaths occurred in Buffalo and around Erie County, New York, which received around 43 inches of snow over the Christmas holiday, according to CNN.

More than 1.6 million electrical customers were without power just before 7:45 a.m. on Dec. 24, according to Power Outage US, a company, a website that tracks live power outage data from utility providers around the country.

Around 3,180 flights were canceled flying into, out of or within the U.S. on Christmas day and 7,865 were delayed, according to Flightaware.com, a site that tracks worldwide flight traffic.

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