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One killed, several others seriously injured during attempts to steal overhead live cable

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Death: The theft of live cable is treacherous, the ESB said
Death: The theft of live cable is treacherous, the ESB said

One person has been killed and a number of others very seriously injured during attempts to steal live ESB lines, the electricity company has said.

Gangs stealing overhead cables around the country are not only putting lives at risk but are endangering the lives of members of the public by leaving potentially unsafe live electrical network behind them and interrupting supply to critical services, the ESB have said. 

To date, the company says they know of one fatality and three very serious injuries which were sustained during the attempted theft of live cable. ESB Networks has been dealing with several incidents where live copper overhead lines have been stolen by third parties.

Head of Distribution and Customer Services at ESB Networks, Senan Colleran, said that metal thieves were “taking their lives into their own hands”.

“Today, we know of one fatality and three very serious injuries of people breaking in to substations or cutting down wires who have been very badly hurt or killed.

“In many cases, hazards are left for the public and for farmers and landowners alike. There have been small fires caused.

“We’ve had a number of reports of people who were burned and who fell off poles trying to steal wires, so they’re bringing huge risk to themselves.”

Read: Garda Air Support involved in raid targeting suspect robbers of overhead power cables.

These criminals are also stealing copper earthing conductor from high voltage substations all over the country, Gardai said. 

The thefts, which have occurred across the country, can result in loss of electricity supply to customers in the areas targeted by thieves. It also causes significant the inconvenience caused to local residents while the repair works are carried out by ESB Network crews.

This has an impact on domestic and commercial customers. ESB Networks is particularly concerned that the theft of live electrical equipment can have a severe impact on vulnerable customers. 

"Investigations have been carried into the large scale organised theft of live electrical cable throughout the Country over the past number of months," a Gardai spokesperson said. 

"The modus operandi of the group involved was to climb electrical poles and cut large amounts of copper wire over a period of several hours.

This has resulted in power outages to large sections of the country; it presented a serious danger to the public and resulted in millions of euros worth of damage to ESB power lines.

"To-date this year 142 kilometres of power lines have been stolen at a replacement cost of €4.6million."

Derek Byrne, Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana  said that the crimes normally occur late at night or early in the morning, where small groups cut wires and cables and take them from the scene.

“What we’re noticing is that these thefts occur in predominantly rural areas, off the main roads,” he said.

“There is some scouting involved a day or two beforehand – there’s no doubt about that.”

Members of the public are encouraged to report metal thefts to Crimestoppers on 1800 25 00 25.