FARMINGTON — A man nearly electrocuted himself and caused a power outage while trying to steal copper wiring earlier this week.

The man suffered extensive burns to his body, according to a press release from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority on Tuesday.

The man was trying to cut wiring from high voltage equipment at the utility's Tohatchi Electric Substation at 7 a.m. Monday.

He caused a blackout in the McKinley County region for more than five hours. Tohlakai, Twin Lakes, Coyote Canyon, Tohatchi and Buffalo Springs to Naschitti all were without power.

Electric crews arrived at the substation to find evidence that someone had trespassed. They saw the suspect walking less than 100 yards away from the substation.

Navajo Nation police responded to the incident and found the suspect. The suspect has been identified, but Navajo Nation police could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Navajo Nation police are investigating the incident.

The suspect was transported to the Gallup hospital by ambulance before being taken to the Albuquerque burn unit, the press release said.

"The individual is lucky to be alive," said utility General Manager Walter Haase. "People take tremendous risk of serious injury or even death when they attempt to cut and remove electric wire from high voltage electric infrastructure. Tampering with high voltage equipment is not worth the injury or death."

Electric utility companies across the United States are experiencing attempts to steal copper wiring.


Stealing copper and other metals from utilities can cause major electric outages, and expensive repairs impact customers. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a theft of just $100 in copper wire can cost a utility company more than $5,000 to repair, the press release said.

"Not only is the person risking injury by electrocution, this illegal activity will cause problems for our customers," Haase said. "This is what happened when a whole region went without power for hours. Someone got hurt very bad and hundreds were without electrical power."

The utility is asking the public to report open substation gates, hanging wires or suspicious people near electrical facilities, including any questionable activity near electric utility poles, electric towers, and street lights.

The utility is asking people to contact local law enforcement or call the utility central dispatch at 1-800-528-5011.