Power company sued in death of 6-year-old
By Mark Wineka
A Cleveland woman filed a lawsuit Tuesday against EnergyUnited, claiming the power company was responsible for her 6-year-old son’s electrocution in late March.
According to the civil suit filed in Rowan County, young Nathan Kenemore came into contact with an uninsulated, high-voltage power line as he was climbing the branches of a white pine tree in a neighbor’s yard March 27.
The suit says Nathan, a first-grader, was playing with another 6-year-old while their mothers were nearby.
The women were unaware of the high-voltage line running through the tree, according to the civil suit, which alleges that EnergyUnited violated national safety standards resulting in Nathan’s death.
“I want to do everything I can to make sure no other child dies needlessly by electrocution,” Deborah Kenemore, the boy’s mother, said in a statement released by her Raleigh attorneys.
“I want to make sure power companies aren’t allowed to let this happen again, ever.”
Nathan was Deborah Kenemore’s only son. She is bringing the suit on behalf of his estate.
EnergyUnited is an electric membership corporation headquartered in Statesville. A portion of its service area includes western Rowan County.
The Kenemore suit says EnergyUnited employees visited the neighbor’s property monthly to read an electric meter near the pine tree. It alleges that the company failed to trim the tree or take other protective measures, such as warning the property owners.
The tree had grown 14 feet higher than the uninsulated line, the suit says, and EnergyUnited had failed to prune the tree for at least six years, deviating from its own schedule for pruning.
Attorneys for Kenemore say the National Electric Safety Code requires electric utilities, which have the right of way for power lines, to clear vegetation around high-voltage lines and to otherwise insure that lines cannot be reached and touched by individuals unaware of the electrical hazard.
The accident occurred about 7 p.m. March 27. Nathan was climbing a tree at 2575 Phifer Road in Cleveland.
The white pine he was climbing had low hanging branches and had grown to about 41 feet tall.
The power line carried 7,200 volts of electricity and was approximately 25 feet off the ground, the suit says.
The electric meter for the property was located outside a garage, “and from the meter there was a clear view of the high-voltage line as well as the white pine tree that Nathan climbed when he was electrocuted,” the suit says.
Deborah Kenemore took Nathan to the neighbor’s house so he could play with a 6-year-old girl. She remained on the property at all times and was in close proximity to the tree, the suit says.
Here’s a few more details of that evening, as outlined in the suit.
Deborah Kenemore and the girl’s mother were exercising in the garage about 100 feet from the pine tree, which Nathan eventually climbed.
The 6-year-old girl told her mother and Deborah Kenemore that she and Nathan were going to pick flowers. The mothers approved as long as the children promised to stay in the yard.
A few minutes later, the little girl entered the exercise area and told the mothers that Nathan would not speak to her, and she thought he was pretending to be asleep in the tree.
Deborah Kenemore went into the yard and saw Nathan in the tree as she called his name several times. The suit says she became distraught when he failed to respond, then ran to the tree screaming his name.Another member of the neighbor’s family ran to help Deborah Kenemore climb the tree.
In reaching her son, Kenemore first thought her son had fallen from some higher branches and had sustained a neck injury. As she cradled his head, the mother found Nathan unresponsive and attempted to revive him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The suit says she was unaware that he had come in contact with the power line. She remained with him in the tree for approximately 10 minutes until emergency personnel arrived and helped to take Nathan to the ground.
Deborah Kenemore was not allowed to accompany her son in the ambulance and followed in the neighbor’s private car.
Meanwhile, emergency personnel tried unsuccessfully to revive Nathan en route to Davis Regional Medical Center in Statesville. It was at the hospital that Deborah Kenemore first learned that Nathan had been electrocuted, the suit says.
He was pronounced dead at 8:03 p.m. His death certificate lists the cause as electrocution.
Deborah Kenemore seeks claims of relief for wrongful death, punitive damages and “negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
In the wrongful death claim, the mother says EnergyUnited “should have known that overhead, uninsulated electric lines in residential areas containing climbable structures such as trees are life threatening to people, including children, who may climb without seeing a power line above or without realizing that a line is energized and uninsulated.”
The suit says Nathan’s death was unnecessary and avoidable if EnergyUnited had complied with industry safety standards and its own safety policies.