PUD workers cleared power line before firefighter's shock

FINLEY, Wash. -- KEPR has learned just how much of a life or death situation it was in Finley when a young firefighter was shocked by a live power line.

Benton PUD admits its linemen thought the line was not hot and gave firefighters the okay to douse the flames. A massive electric current shot through Ty Schoenfeld, nearly stopping his heart.

It's not hyperbole to say 22-year-old Ty Schoenwald nearly lost his life along this muddy road in Finley. An electric shock from a fallen power line sent as much as 2,700 volts coursing through his body.

"He was in V-Fib, which is ventricular fibrillation. The clock's ticking, in terms of getting that heart pumping again. It's just fluttering, it's not pumping blood, so left alone, you would die from that," said Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes.

But he was not left alone.

Ty's fellow firefighters quickly sprang into action. Trained in emergency medicine, they began performing CPR and shocked his heart with a defibrillator. This got his heart pumping again so he could be rushed to the hospital, then flown to a Seattle trauma center.

Amazingly, he was headed home a day later.

So how did this even happen?

The investigation found it wasn't Ty's fault. The volunteer firefighter had been given the okay to spray water on a burning wood pile with a power line lying on top. Benton PUD crews had assured firefighters the wire was not live.

PUD investigators say disciplinary action on the linemen will not be determined until after the investigation.

"Human error resulting in a close call requires us to be open about it, not be concerned about discipline. And I absolutely truthfully believe that those linemen need consoling," Baynes continued.

Only one other time in the last 30 years has someone been seriously shocked while dealing with Benton PUD power lines.

Everyone involved in this close call is relieved that Ty Schoenwald could be saved.

Ty was just released from a Seattle hospital. He's on his way home to Tri-Cities.

Benton PUD says the investigation into the accident is still ongoing.